Packing Your Theater Bag
Image courtesy of the U.S. Library of Congress
Tech Week is underway and it’s time for you to head to your performance venue for your first dress rehearsal! You will enjoy your time at the theater much more, and you will give a better performance, if you have these essentials with you in your dressing room for both tech week and the run of the show.
It’s a good idea to have a designated "theater bag" (or theater box, but more on that later) and a list of staples to pack up before you go. Keep the list in the bag, or on the box (or bookmark this Quick Reference Guide) and refer to the list when you’re packing up so you don’t forget anything.
Personal comfort stuff:
Water Bottle - On stage, you’ll be under lights, and it gets hot. Also, theater’s are big, warehouse-like buildings and the air is typically dry. Staying well hydrated is absolutely key to giving a good performance (ask your vocal coach) and to feeling your best.
Snack Food – You’re going to be at the venue for longer than you think you will. For a standard two and a half hour show, you’ll get there about an hour early for makeup, hair and costuming, then the show, then another half an hour or hour of cleaning up and getting set for the next day. That’s four and a half hours in the building, working hard, and a tech rehearsal will be even longer! You’re going to get hungry. Fresh fruit and vegetables will give you the best boost, but if you must go pre-packaged choose a protein bar, not a candy bar. And nothing that will make a mess! (And no eating in costume!)
Mints – Really. You’ll just be happier if you have one to pop between scenes. And your cast mates will appreciate the effort.
Baby Wipes – Absolutely essential. They’re cheap, portable, easy on your skin and do a wonderful job of taking off stage makeup.
Hand Lotion – Back to the dry air in the building. You might not need it, but if you do, you’ll be SO happy to have it with you.
Lip Balm - Have we discussed the dry air? Or the lights?
Padlock – If your venue has lockers available for performers to use, you should have a lock in your theater bag or box. The rule is: Don’t take any valuables with you to the theater. By and large, dressing rooms are unlocked and unattended. However, if you do bring an Ipod or a PSP or some such for your amusement during downtimes, lock it up. Just a good practice.
Activity Item – Books, hand held video games, mp3 players, a deck of cards. Something. Unless you’re on stage non-stop, you may find yourself wanting something to do, at least during intermission.
Performance related stuff:
Costume Pieces You’re Responsible For Providing – Your costumer will likely tell you that there are a couple of pieces or accessories that you need to bring yourself. It might be a shirt, or a pair of pants. For a lot of community theater shows, you’ll be wearing your own shoes. Men will generally need to provide their own belt. Whatever the piece or pieces are that you’re responsible for providing yourself, get them into your theater box as soon as you know you need them and keep them there for the run of the show (except to wash things, as appropriate, of course!).
Appropriate Undergarments – Men, you’ll be needing to wear a tee shirt under your costume so the costume doesn’t get AS sweaty. Women, you’ll be needing to wear a bra and/or a camisole. You just will. And very possibly a slip. Everyone will be wearing underwear, unless you’re in an Oh, Calcutta! revival. Everyone will need socks or stockings or tights, as called for by your costumers. You will provide these things yourself and you should get a supply of them into your theater bag.
Hair Care Items – You don’t want to share a brush, and neither does anyone else! You may also want to take along some hairspray, or gel, or other product necessary to do your own hair, unless your show will have a stylist available to you.
Makeup Kit – Most troupes have a community makeup kit, and that’s fine, as far as it goes. But the fact is you’ll save yourself a lot of time ("Who’s got a Creamy Peach?…Ok, how about one with something left in it…."), a lot of stress ("We’re OUT of Creamy Peach? Really?"), and a lot of, well, "ick" factor ("WHO was just using this??") by getting yourself a little makeup kit of your own.
Makeup Shirt – A lot of actors like to keep a shirt in their bag that they can put on over their base layer and wear while they’re putting on makeup. Any makeup mishaps, then, will make a mess of the makeup shirt, not the base layer, or, heaven forbid, your costume. (Makeup, hair, mic, costume. Say it again. Makeup, hair, mic, costume.)
There are plenty of actors walking around, using a gym bag for their theater gear, and they get on quite nicely. The bags are flexible, so you can over stuff if necessary, they have a shoulder strap, which is monstrously convenient, and they’re available anywhere.
The Theater Community, though, is a fan of the theater box, or theater tote. A 60 to 70 quart capacity container, which measures about 24"x16"x14", with a latching lid provides plenty of room for your stuff while also affording your belongings some protection against the dangers of the dressing room. You can also write your name across the outside of it with a permanent marker, making your spot in front of the mirror easy to find.
Your Theatre Bag:
Is that everything? If there’s a "must have" that you keep in your tote or bag that hasn’t been mentioned, leave a comment below. Helpful suggestions might result in a revised list!
Again, for quick reference while you’re packing, here’s a copy of this list as a bullet-point checklist.
Now that you’re packed, it’s time for Tech Rehearsal!
Back to Tech Week.