Tipping the dresser, audience snooping and more things you didn't know about theatre

We asked the Twittersphere for some examples of things that are commonplace but generally unknown to the public

What goes on backstage at the theatre?
What goes on backstage at the theatre?
© Gareth Wall (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Yesterday, we asked Twitter for some things that are commonplace in the theatre industry that the public generally don't know about. The results were enlightening to say the least, so here's nine of our favourite responses.

1. Tipping the dresser

— Leon Kay (@leonrkay) July 30, 2018

Leon Kay (Billy Elliott, Les Misérables) claimed that at the end of each week on a show, or venue on a tour, he would tip his dresser. "It's a respectful thank you" he says, adding "This person, manages your sweaty clothes, underwear, sometimes hangs your clothes up for you at the end of an evening, may fill your water bottle up for you if you don't have time. All sorts! Legends!"

2. All you need is an empty space

— Eleanor Rhode (@elrhode) July 31, 2018

Contrary to popular belief, the stage upon which you are watching the show take place, is not where the show was rehearsed, according to director Eleanor Rhode (Boudicca). Playwright Jon Bradfield expanded on this saying that productions don't audition 'on the stage of a darkly lit West End or Broadway theatre as they do in movies.'

3. Shows are like a swan

— Lucy Eaton (@lucyeatonmess) July 31, 2018

Graceful above the surface but kicking like bad below. Actress Lucy Eaton (The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui) thinks audiences might be better off watching what goes on backstage than onstage sometimes. Who knew a quick change demanded such synchronicity?

4. Stop the clocks

— MsRHayes (@Bobberty_Bobs) July 30, 2018

Deputy Stage Manager @Bobberty_Bobs posted to inform us that 'the half' is all a lie. Director Damian Sandys (The Kite Runner) elaborated, claiming that "whenever a show goes up late, it's usually because it's waiting for the audience not the other way round!"

5. You're late!

— Nick Allen (@nickallentenor) July 30, 2018

Tenor Nick Allen let us in on a secret that, while you might bemoan the length of a show, the performers are doing their darndest to ensure it comes down on time. Cabaret star Le Gateau Chocolat went one further saying: 'and then pointing out who was milking whatever if the show was longer!'

6. Understudies, under-prepared

— Eleanor Crosswell (@EJCrosswell) July 31, 2018

Understudies have been in the news a lot recently (HT Steph Parry, Jennifer Caldwell and co). And to add to our awe of these heroes, actress Eleanor Crosswell (I Won't Make It On My Own) suggests that understudies don't get to rehearse the roles they're covering until after the show has opened. So fingers crossed for no bouts of preview flu.

7. They can hear you…

— s a b r i n a a l o u e c h e (@sabrinaaloueche) July 30, 2018

Actress Sabrina Aloueche (Les Misérables, We Will Rock You) made us think about all the times we've perhaps not been kind about a show during the interval. Apparently you can be heard on the backstage relay, so be nice people.

8. And they can see you…

— Mel Jingle (@jinglewho) July 30, 2018

Adding to the last one, Mel Jingle – a lighting apprentice at the Royal Opera House – shared a highly amusing image of a man caught sleeping on the front row – at least we hope he's sleeping.

9. Erm…

— Teresa T (@riverdancefan) July 30, 2018

Sitzprobe: In opera and musical theatre, a sitzprobe (from the German for seated rehearsal) is a rehearsal where the singers sing with the orchestra.