Theatre Information

Must The Show Go On?

By • Jan 21st, 2009 • Category: An Actor's Advice

“The show must go on,” is the most tired adage connected with theatre. If one is only ever in one play, and by some miracle only one problem crops up during the show, I can promise somebody will say this.

Admirable. I agree with this notion of “playing through it.” I have done this myself. Money, time and energy have been spent in pursuit of a quality production, and nobody truly wants to allow obstacles to ruin all of that.

Yet there ought to be a limit to this notion. Even for the dedicated actor.

How do we draw this line?

The key is to do what many actors I know have not done. You must determine if more individual pain or damage will be caused to you, (or someone else) by doing a show, than would by caused by not doing it. Respect for one’s self dictates that if it is the former, it is not worth it. We are all only human, after all.

Medical reasons, for instance. I don’t refer to a cold opening night. But if a doctor says you should not be performing in a show, you should not be doing so. Whether it be out of an extreme sense of duty, or a warped desire to be a martyr of some sort, no show is worth risking your health or even your life. Yet sadly I do know of those who play through serious injury and illness, usually to the detriment of the show, and always to the detriment of themselves.

Same for mental injuries and “outside” drama. If you cannot think of anything but your private issue anytime you are off stage, (and certainly if while you are ON stage) you should step aside.

Finally, circumstances that are neither medical nor mental should sometimes call for a halt to the production. One recent example from my life involved a friend of mine who’s classmate had been murdered. Literally murdered a week before the show opened. The victim was not in the production, but the production was unfortunately a murder mystery.

This show proceeded, and though I had no connection to it or the victim, I remember thinking how much in poor taste it was to continue with a show within a community suffering something as devastating as that. Particularly given the subject matter of the play. Sometimes the damage to an individual, or group, that a production causes, is not done to anybody in the show, but simply to those who share the community.

It’s a fine line between pressing on and being obstinate. It varies of course from show to show, actor to actor. But the line should in fact exist. There should be a limit beyond which you opt out of a show.

And few people are as dedicated to the show going on as I am.

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is a Maryland native and has been acting for nine years, having studied it at Marietta College in Ohio. He has been schooled in Shakespeare, improvisation, public speaking and voice articulation throughout his career. His credits to date include over 30 plays and readings as well as 2 films. You can also read his blogs (for theatre related thoughts) and (for thoughts on personal success from an outcast). Follow him on Twitter @TyUnglebower.