Directing Teaching Drama

Theatre Etiquette 101

Theatre Etiquette 101
Written by Kerry Hishon

When teaching students who are brand-new to theatre, it’s important to discuss and apply the expectations of the drama classroom, and the theatrical world. We chatted with Kerry Hishon on the Drama Teacher Podcast, as she shared her expertise on how to implement and instill theatre etiquette with your students.

Here are 5 key tips for introducing and following Theatre Etiquette in the classroom and in rehearsal.

1. Define theatre etiquette
  • Theatre etiquette is how you behave in the drama classroom or in a rehearsal in order to get along and be a good person in the theatrical world.

It’s important to define a code of behaviour in the classroom or in rehearsal.

Your students are pushing themselves outside of their comfort zone. They’re exploring characters who are different from them. They’re exploring unfamiliar stories. They’re trying to move their bodies in different ways.

Students need a safe place where they can express these things, where they can try new things and not be afraid of making a mistake. Theatre etiquette involves coming up with ways to create a safe place. Help students succeed, feel comfortable to express themselves, and try new things.

2. Involve your students in defining the expectations.
  • It’s important for students to contribute to creating rules, because that way they can take ownership of the drama classroom.

Students need to know that this is their classroom. If they’ve come up with their procedures or ways of doing things, they can really take ownership.

Obviously, if they need need a little bit of direction, you can help shape expectations into what will work for the experience and the particular group of kids. But make sure students are involved from the beginning.

3. The basis of theatre etiquette = respect.
  • If students are respectful of themselves, of each other, of the crew members, of the teacher and the director, they’re able to grow and develop as actors, as performers, and as people.

When students have that respect for their classroom and for themselves, they can allow themselves to open up, express themselves more and learn more.

They can use that respect in every other situation they encounter in life – whether it’s other classes, a first job, dealing with family.

4. Theatre etiquette ensures an equal footing for onstage and offstage company members.
  • Remind your students that the applause is for everyone.

The actors onstage at the end get the big bow. They get the applause. With backstage crew and stage managers, when their job is done well you don’t notice anything going wrong or anything unexpected. If the show is smooth and beautiful, they’ve done their job, but they don’t get to go out and take a bow. They’re backstage hidden in the black clothing.

Actors need to be reminded that the crew, the stage management team, the designers and everyone backstage needs to be treated with respect.

5. Theatre etiquette extends to the audience.
  • Etiquette rules like being quiet backstage, or hanging up your costume properly – the small things add up to create the final amazing production.

Remind students that, no matter what role you’re doing on the show, whether it’s an onstage or backstage role, you’re all contributing to the same ultimate goal: to create a magical world for your audience. You’re going to take them out of their everyday lives, transport them, and tell them this amazing story.

At their heart of it, everybody in a production really does want to do their best. Everybody wants a safe place. Everybody wants adulation from the audience. Following theatre etiquette rules means that the audience gets the respect they deserve.

Download this free Theatre Etiquette Poster for your classroom or backstage.

To learn more about Kerry Hishon’s experience with Theatre Etiquette, check out her course at the Drama Teacher Academy or listen to the podcast at

About the author

Kerry Hishon

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage combatant from London, Ontario, Canada. View her blog at