Unruly casts?


Hey Hey.

Long time no see!

Ok, so what is a good way to get a large cast (30 people) to really get with the show? We are about 2 weeks form opening and the cast has not been giving their all..in any sense. So, I know it sounds bad, but we have come to the conclusion that we need to scare them into getting serious. Cause talking has done NOTHING. Also, they have not been receptive to us telling them to shut up. They just dont get it. Whats the best way to get them to realize that they NEED to get serious and do their work and shut up?!

Little help?


Active Member
I am suffering from the same problem as above, I am SM for a cast of about thirteen 18 year olds, but I am a couple of years younger than them, and they seem to view me as more of an interupption, than a SM. The problem is, they are actually working quite hard and getting on well, its just that they are ignoring me. I have also tried talking to them, but the actors dont seem to understand, that they do occasionally need to listen to people who are younger than them.

I'm sorry that this doesnt help. I just thought I should put my problem down as well, as they are on the same topic..


Active Member
How about a blunt object

Hey TechWench, invite the public in to see a preview about a week before you open...and don't tell the cast until the rehursal the day before..tell them critics from the local paper will be in the audiance...if that doesn't wake them up, wait until 3 days before you open, sit them all down and tell them that since they aren't being serious about this, the tech crew will be taking the night off...Make sure to say that "we (the techs and actors) are here to make the show look good and since they (actors) aren't doing their part there is no need for the crew to expend all of that energy" then just walk out of the theater

I've done the latter twice (in 13 years), and both times I was called back in (Never left the property) and got several apologies

Don't do it too much, lest you become known as a prick to work with


I see it that if they look down on the stage manager, myself being one, that you need to show the actors who the boss is. if they put a prop down in the wing, pick it up and charge them to get it back because they left it in the wing. just make yourself know and it lets everyone know that you deserve respect and should be given it. Or as i have also done, when they come up to you and ask you something, tell them to do it themselves because they dont give you the respect you deserve! Try it, youll be suprised at how well they respond, and how quick they start giving you respect, you have to remember that they are actors and they have very small minds!! :D I hope i made that clear!


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
A few thoughts on stuff that might be of concept.

First arrange that they put up a scene or two of the play ASAP as a cast in the lunch room while the rest of te school watches and mocks them during lunch. If they are not ready, this will quickly become appairent and they will try harder after an early education amongst peers not so much their social club. If nothing else, invite parents and others to the audience to watch a un-announced or without much notice run-thru of the show. Them screwing up in front of an audience will do something.

Next and the same type of psyche war type of thing, you do something to change their timing, setting or atmosphere.

Timing, you get with the director and allow them to start rehearsal at what ever time they want by way of not calling them to the stage (it’s posted but not called), or you let other things as stage manager become absent such as calling or searching them out for their appearance on stage. Leave them alone as long as the director is willing to play game in losing a day. End the day at the normal time no matter how far in rehearsal you got. Basically you not doing your job in some way they think they don’t need you for lets them have a quick education. This again as arranged in a lost night with the director includes nobody getting shushed. Let them talk, let them joke and come late to the stage for one night. Let the more serious students get really upset and start the practice going on their own as leaders of the crew you can rely upon later to keep the rest under check, than let the director at the end of the night do his or her own thing in laying down the law and letting the cast know why this was all necessary. The question amongst the cast than changes from when is the director going to get his act together in starting this rehearsal or keeping it going during rehearsal, to the director/stage manager being one step ahead of the cast and out psyche warring them by allowing them to dig their own grave. This either by way of a total flop of a show in front of an audience or a rehearsal that never really got off the ground. Now instead of being upset with the director/stage manager, they hopefully would realize that in not forcing them to do anything they are not wanting to do they also did not enjoy what they were there for.

An alternative to this would be a night of discipline. This be it theater warm up games all night long when they would rather be acting their roles, or doing scenes the for the most part have together or good enough - especially full cast scenes or perhaps the end of the show applause bows all night long and I do mean all night long. Same concept of changing the timing or atmosphere in knocking the talent off what they are used to. If nothing else, do scene by scene in reverse. Start from the back of the play and go in reverse. You than get their full attention afterwards in explaining why it was necessary and what will be required in the future.

Setting, nothing makes the talent serious like stage lights and set in place. Even if it’s not nearly ready, making the rehearsal as close to the set as possible such as with temporary rehearsal walls and props, plus what ever lighting can be thrown up will often help. At very least, a walk thru or even viewing of the set design model will bring reality to the rehearsal to some extent.

Change the situation and don’t explain, allow them to hang themselves, or do something they don’t know the game plan to and they start to rely upon you and seek out what they know and is easy. In seeking what’s easy, in part it is what purpose they think they should be there for. Could be chatting all night especially if nobody is called to stage and the rehearsal never starts, but such a thing gets boring within a few hours. They than all start to wonder and at that point seek out daddy to tell them what’s going on. In any case, once you break them down be it from a total change of what they expect the norm or presenting the show before it’s ready, you have them.

If there is a fire curtain or main drape, disorientate them in the same psyche war by closing it and leaving it closed all night long. Do other things to disorientate them such as if the director normally sits in the audience, have him or her sit center stage for the night. If the stage manager is typically back stage, move out to the audience with the ASM and let the actors run their own show from backstage in getting on stage on time, keeping quiet etc. Perhaps do the entire show on the brightly lit apron of the stage without use of the stage or normal blocking and props/set at all. Disorientation not only can be beneficial in learning to adapt and adjust, but will get them quickly thinking on their feet and very when out of the normal for them, willing to take direction or listen to advice.

Don't know how well any of this would work but perhaps it might in some way be something to look at.


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Most important for one night would be that the director and you are on the same page completely.

Go is go without stopping to quiet the cast or if someone is late on stage you don’t wait or do a re-start of the scene. Director does not stop and you don’t discipline or do other than what you should be doing. At the beginning of the show, should you wish to be in the audience and start the show when ever the cast is ready, some actor will no doubt step up on stage and ask when it’s going to start. Say something like it will start when ever you are ready, than go back to what the both of you were doing without calling places etc. Important part would be for both director and stage manager to be otherwise occupied in not directing the cast. Should as above the talent wish to ask a question or stop the show for something, answer or direct but allow them to run their own show for a night. Perhaps bring up the cues for scene one and let the talent do as they wish. Follow their lead in calling future cues. Show begins and ends as per the posted schedule. Talent on stage or show completed or not.

This would be a hard concept in discipline to do especially if the cast is that far behind in learning the show, but could work wonders in waking them up.

This with the in front of an audience or more especially the director on stage or in the wings and perhaps wandering into the makeup area during a scene would tend to throw them off what’s normal for them.

Getting their attention is the key here as a concept. By the way, one does not deserve respect, one earns it. This both by having leadership skills sufficient for others to follow you and trust in your ability sufficient they don’t challenge your leadership. Just as the actors must learn their role, you must learn your own in leading them. In no way is it just the actors at fault if they don’t listen or are at complete their own fault for not getting it.


Active Member
I realize this is a high school forum, so you need to consider weather or not this applies, but in real life, the stage manager is not a babysitter in any way shape or form. I think even more so n High school simply because you are in reality equal to them in every way.

You SHOULD NOT! do anything to mess with the actors, with or without the directors approval. That is TERRIBLE advice and just a bad thing to do. It's too is unprofessional and only continues the behavior. In professional theater of any sort, this would be considered terribly unprofessional and just stupid.

Actors are creatures of habit and don't always think the way a techie might. It's the SMs job to empathize. You have to understand your role of the show, it is to become the running director once shows begin. That means you must have a relationship with the actors, one that is consistantly supportive. All these methods suggested such as disorienting the actors or whatever simply make them see you as an authority figure. You need to be accesable and actors should trust you. Anything to affect this relationship could seriously damage the show. I totally understand the desire to be viewed as boss, but the most important thing you can learn as SM right up front is that this desire will get you into trouble. The SM has almost NO authority. If you think about it, it's true. They are crucial people in the show, but really there to accomodate everyone.

Don't think I believe the SM should cater to actors, but the theater is organized and functions best in a cooperative environment. Actorys funtion best of all under this condition. Actors are expected to act professionally, not to talk or get distracted. Obviously this isn't easily accomplished in high school so grades become the very simple leverage. It should be said no more than once at the beginning of any show that their grades will not depend upon their performance, but simply upon their demenor and professionalism. A stage manager is responsible for too many things to correct behavior of the actors.

The only agreement you need with the director/person giving grades is that after ONE request to stop behavior unbecoming of an actor on the set, their grade will be severely impacted. That is not meant as a lesson, or threat, but the simple truth that in ANY job, that sort of behavior leads to firing, a bad reputation and other very unpleasent realities.

In a nut shell, you will get the most out of actors when you act in control, and supportive, not like the boss. They will not respond to threats well, in their acting or their attitude. They will never respect someone who they feel is against them. Understand that theater is a group effort and that the SM is just not the boss of the show. It's really a question of vanity. If you want people to treat you like the boss, be a director, but if you want the power be an SM. The power, though, comes from your cooperation and supportiveness as well as your complete knowledge and control.


Senior Team Emeritus
Premium Member
Well spoken and great advice.

I was thinking a little into te extremes of gaining back control overall and probably taking this very much over the top on how you could do this by way of concept only in usefulness.


Active Member
Oh man, the extremes are great. there's so much great stuff to do to screw with actors. It's endlessssss. If you aren't SM you can probably get away with most of it too. most of the fun is in the desire though. I guess this sort of coincides:
When i was in high school, our booth was right in the actors straight on line of sight and the windows acted like one way mirrors. So much fun watching the actors look at themselves. Not so much we were screwing with them, just sort of observing a different species.


All the advice said is very good and some of it my own SM shuld try some of it. The one thing I do know is that you don't mess with what the director want when it's a high school play. If she wants you to call places than you have to and especially in the case of our own director. The tech crew catches grief too when the actors aren't in places or props are missing. And don't even ask the actors to help out with moving their own stuff on stage, in our case chairs to dance on, they're just a little to flaky to do that. In short if the director wants do it but if she or he is willing to go along with any of the suggestions as in not calling places, then go for it. I'd do it myself but I'm just LM and SM to be.


I find that if you just let them do their thing, then the actors eventually figure out that they need to get their act together. Usually our shows come together the Thursday before a friday show, if not the friday of the show. I have worked with my peers at the high school level now for three years and I remember what it was like to have a cast that at least pretended to care. Those were the days of senior leadership, which has gone with the seniors of old. You just have to put up with all the crap and do your best and hope the actors pull themselves together in time. If they don't then you will have an experience to remindm them about in the future.


saxman0317 said:
easy....walk out on their dress rehersal. Its the only thing i can find that works. They cant do their jobs without us, so why should we put up with crap?!

That is SO not the answer. A cast and a crew, SM, director, anyone even remotely conected to the show has to work together. Even if you are not thanked, you are apreciated. Everyone knows that without the actors or SM or director or LD, there is no show. Everyone needs to get past thinking that they are the key in any production, and that they make the show what it is.
It's been a long tome since I wrote that that question, and the circumstances were odd and detractible. but now that I have been out working in the city and getting a ton more gigs, I have really realized that yes, the stage manager does a lot of work, but so do the actors. Has anyone worked with equity actors? Becuase if you have, they will make you realize what theatre is about, and they will make you realize why you do theatre, and how wonderful the process really is. My advice to everyone here: get out of the high school mentality, I was stuck in it for a while and it definitely made me weaker once I stepped into professional theatre. Actors do a lot of work, so saying that they are dumb and blaming everything on them, is horrible. Respect is the key. Respect them, and you will get respect in return. It's simple.


Active Member
^^ A worthy post, and one that sounds great on paper. Everyone should just get along, right? Right.

Anyways, we all know that's the 20 cents answer (I'm sorry, but its true), "just respect everyone and they will respect you!" If the shows in a week and that hasn't been happening, then its time for something different.

I've seen both extremes of this spectrum, and both suck. I've seen a SM say "Well if you're not going to listen to me then I guess I'm not needed and I'll just leave." This is NOT the route to go; my immediate reaction was disgust at the obvious drama (har?) and guilt this was supposed to infer. I've also seen crews do nothing about an uncaring cast, and the extremely bad final product.

Frankly, I'd just gather all of the cast on stage and tell it to them frank. If you think they're not caring, then say it to them. If you think you've been respecting them a hell of a lot more than they have been respecting you, then say it. And then just tell them that you're only willing to match the amount of commitment that they are putting into the production. Don't yell, don't cry, just say that it is pointless for you to put in effort that will not be matched by them. Then start listing off consequences. If you don't come on time tomorrow, then I will tell the techies that they don't have to be on time tomorrow. If you don't listen when I tell you things that you need to know, I won't listen when you try to tell me things that I need to know.

If they're serious, then they'll be somber and they might feel bad; at any rate, they will try to shape up. You will be able to tell almost immediately if there is any hope.

Conversely, you will also be able to tell almost immediately if there is no hope. It's all about the tone in the air after you finish talking. From here you have a couple courses of action, whether it be following through with those consequences, trying harder to benefit the final production, giving up....that choice I leave to you.

I've seen this method done. It works, and I've been fortunate in that it has so far always made the actors shape up. If you tell it to them frankly and they still do not listen...well, at least you know exactly where they stand.


Well-Known Member
It works. yes.

It fails. yes.

I have had spectacular shows after a speech like this, and I have had the entire cast walk out and the play not happen. The key is, like you say, the air / mood after the speech, and how it is used. Either it gets people moving or it totally dishartens them.. We hope for the previous.


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In my life i have never canceld a show as a producer and i have never been envolved with canceling a show as a desiger. But i have tried the yee old we will cancel the show trick.... does jack all waste of time just makes the cast and crew hate each other.

to be honest high school theatre will never ever ever ever be motivated. there is always one or two who are but hey these are the people that move on to theatre as a carrer the rest are doing it as a fun hobby. Once it becomes anything other then that it is only an inconvinance to them.

Now i understand your pasionate about the show but you cannot expect everyone else to be.

you kinda just have to go with the flow. and it always comes together in the end.

if you worry to much you run the risk of pissing everyone off which will be counter productive.


Active Member
While sometimes being told off by a peer is a very constructive tool, I really don't think that it is the high school stage manager's job to control other high schoolers. That is the drama advisor's job.

Where is the instructor/advisor? Why aren't they stopping the lunacy?

I have had times where my SM was dressing down several cast members for doing something that was unsafe. I have also had dress rehearsals where I stopped my students and sat them on stage saying my famous...

"Too many VOLUNTEERS put their time and energy into this project so that you kids can have a fun, yet educational experience, and you're going to repay their dedication with this crap? I WILL NOT cancel this show and YOU WILL go onto that stage this weekend and look the fool... not me."

speech. It usually gets the message across.
I think there is only so much an advisor/director/parent (which ever adult is incharge) can do. All these adults are busy worrying about other things it is hard for them to make sure "Billy" isn't hanging from the curtains. But at the same time I think when cast and crew members yell at other cast and crew members it just creates that much more tension... Unfortnately I can't close this with "we should just rely on their maturity...." because our theater department is lacking that on some days (and I am in this group) :)


Active Member
TechWench said:
That is SO not the answer. A cast and a crew, SM, director, anyone even remotely conected to the show has to work together. Even if you are not thanked, you are apreciated. Everyone knows that without the actors or SM or director or LD, there is no show. Everyone needs to get past thinking that they are the key in any production, and that they make the show what it is.
It's been a long tome since I wrote that that question, and the circumstances were odd and detractible. but now that I have been out working in the city and getting a ton more gigs, I have really realized that yes, the stage manager does a lot of work, but so do the actors. Has anyone worked with equity actors? Becuase if you have, they will make you realize what theatre is about, and they will make you realize why you do theatre, and how wonderful the process really is. My advice to everyone here: get out of the high school mentality, I was stuck in it for a while and it definitely made me weaker once I stepped into professional theatre. Actors do a lot of work, so saying that they are dumb and blaming everything on them, is horrible. Respect is the key. Respect them, and you will get respect in return. It's simple.

Im more than willing to work with them, but when it comes down to the last rehersal and you cant do your job and finish what you need to have done because they simply wont do anything? Theres working together, and theres just people not doing what they need to do. Granted my thing doesnt work in most situations. But if the crew is doing everything that needs to be done, and ends up sitting there for wasted time because the cast cant seem to find it in them to get off their butts and do something, or when they do, not take it seriously? Im sorry, but if im spending sometimes more than 5 hours afterschool everyday to make them look better, and they spend 3 of theat screwing around before they can even get on the stage, im not going to waste my time sitting there when i can be doing something productive. It may seem immature, but in extreme cases, its whats needed, in all parts of life. If its just a matter of them being loud back stage or something, find some way to get it through their thick heads that they cant be like that...we taped a rehersal just like we would fora show and showed it to the ones who were doing it. WHen they saw that when we said that they can be seen and heard and stuff and we werent bsing them, they figured out not to do it.

When in doubt about yourself, walk away. A frustrated techie doesnt do as good a job, and tends to crack on people, making them not do as good a job. Leave and come back if you must. 10 minutes wasted is better than a show that is half as good as it can be.
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Active Member
I think that walking away from a high school production is a really bad idea. I know that if any kid at GV threatened to walk away or did walk away, I wouldn't do a thing to stop them. I'd even help them figure out which exit to take. Then I would give their part to the understudy or their task to another student. That kind of threat is a bluff I will call every time... even if it is to the detriment to the show, because there would be a good life lesson to learn there.

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