Journey to a Trauma Informed Life

Volunteer Handbook

An Introduction to the Playhouse

Welcome to the Erie Playhouse. As a new volunteer we want your experience here to be the best it can be. We want you to feel at home here and want you to come back often. In this handbook you will find information and general rules that should make your transition into the Playhouse family a smooth one.

Thank you for volunteering at the Erie Playhouse!


The Erie Playhouse is one of the oldest community theatres in the nation, founded in 1916 by Henry B. Vincent. Opening night was January 18, 1916, staged in the old Chamber of Commerce rooms in the Reed Hotel on North Park Row. The Little Theatre, as it was called, operated successfully until May 1918, when World War I brought about the end of the community theatre after two seasons.

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Mission Statement

The Erie Playhouse educates, entertains, inspires, transforms, and supports communities through theatre.

Board and Staff

The Playhouse is governed by a board of directors. The board is made up of Playhouse family and community members. The Playhouse is run by a full-time staff of 11 people.

View Board and Staff


Rehearsals are held at 1158 East 12th St. Rehearsals are usually held during the evenings Sunday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Initially, rehearsals last anywhere from two to three hours until production week, when they can run as long as four hours.

Once you are cast, you will be contacted by the director telling you when your first rehearsal is. Sometimes you will receive your schedule prior to this first rehearsal. The rehearsal schedule lets you know the time of each rehearsal and what material is to be covered at each rehearsal. If you are in a play, the director lists the scenes or acts to be covered at each rehearsal. If you are involved in those scenes or acts then you need to be at those rehearsals. If you are in a musical you should also receive a “who is in what number” breakdown. This will list all the musical numbers and what people are needed for those numbers. Some terms you may need to know to decipher your schedule:

Block or Blocking

The process of arranging moves to be made by the actors when speaking lines. The director will tell you to move in a certain direction on a certain line. It is very important that you mark all of your blocking, in pencil as it may change, as the director tells you. This will help you to remember when you review your material. It is important to note that stage directions in the script are not always what the director will do. How to notate your blocking DS = Downstage, US = Upstage, SR = Stage Right, CS = Centre stage, SL = Stage Left,  RC = Right of centre stage, LC = Left of centre stage, DR = Down right, DL = Down left, UR = Up right, UL = Up left, UC = Up centre, DC = Down centre, C/L = Centre line, X = Cross  Upstage – the back of the stage away from the audience Downstage – the front of the stage towards the audience Stage right and stage left are your right and left as an actor facing the audience.

Staging and Choreography

The process of arranging movement or dances to be done during musical numbers. The choreographer will tell you how to move during lyrics and musical breaks. Most dances are broken down into counts of 8, either 2 or 4 counts per measure of music. It is important that you write down all of your choreography to review on your own.

Run or Run Through

A rehearsal of the whole show or a section of it (e.g” This afternoon’s rehearsal will be a run of Act II”).

Dress Rehearsal

A full rehearsal, with all technical elements brought together. Technical elements are lights, sound, scenery, props, costumes, wigs and make-up.


To disassemble a stage set, to remove props from the stage, to clean the backstage and dressing room areas. (e.g.”How many crew do you need for the strike,” “Strike the armchair after scene 1” etc.)


The time you need to be at the theatre before a rehearsal or show.

Tech or Technical Rehearsal

The first time the show is rehearsed on stage with scenery. At the rehearsal, the setting and striking of scenery by stage crew or actors is set. You will receive a Tech Sheet to write down any scene changes you may be assigned. Often a very lengthy process.

Work Scenes or Choreography

The process of breaking down scenes or dances and refining them.


At the rehearsal hall at 12th and Brandis there is parking along the side and back of the building. Please obey the reserved and handicapped parking areas.  Between April and November, after 6:00 pm, you must have an Erie Playhouse parking pass on your dashboard or you will be towed. Parking passes can be obtained from the director.

There is no assigned area for Playhouse parking downtown. You can park in the following areas. On the street at a meter. You have to pay Monday thru Saturday before 6:00pm. After 6:00 pm you can park for free. The parking ramp on 10th between State and French. If the gate is up you can park for free. The parking lot behind the Playhouse – You have to pay 24/7. The current exception to this is Sundays when they do not ticket (Shhh! It’s a secret). The Parking area behind Acordia. This is adjacent to the parking lot behind the Playhouse. You can park here for free on weekends and weekdays after 5pm. Here are the rules: 1. Do not pull in behind someone whom you do not know. You could be blocking a person from Acordia and you will get towed. 2. If you pull in and pull forward put a Playhouse sign in your back window so someone else can pull in behind you (aPlaybill works great). The Griffith parking lot at 11th and Peach next to the church. We currently park here after 6:00pm and Saturday and Sundays for free. Musolf’s gas station at 11th and Peach. We currently park here after 6:00pm and Saturday and Sundays for free The Verizon Parking lot on 10th between Sassafras and Peach – you can park here for free after 6:00 pm and Saturdays and Sundays. Do not park in the caged lot to the west of the rear of the Playhouse or the parking lot next to that,YOU WILL BE TOWED. Do not park in the alley way to the east of the Playhouse. YOU WILL BE TOWED!

Please be aware of your surroundings as you enter and leave the theatre and rehearsal hall. Always try to leave with another person when possible. As we are located downtown you may at times be approached by panhandlers or people asking to use your cell phone. Do not give these people money or your cell phone. If you are approached you should let the director or house manager know so that the authorities can be called. In addition there is no loitering permitted outside the playhouse if you notice unfamiliar people sitting on the loading dock or in the alley you should also notify the director or house manager.

The People Your Will Meet at the Playhouse and Their Jobs


There are many types of director. Broadly, the role involves being responsible for the overall artistic vision of a production. The director is in charge at all rehearsals.

Assistant Director

Aids the director as needed. The assistant director keeps track of all blocking and makes sure that actors are adhering to the script and blocking.


Member of the production team responsible for setting dances and movement sequences during the production.

Musical Director

Often the conductor/leader of a musical, or the person responsible for the musical content of a production.

Vocal Director

Sometimes also the musical director. This person is in charge of teaching all singing in a show and maintaining it.

Stage Manager

Oversees each production once it reaches the stage. This person is responsible for seeing to it that each performance runs smoothly backstage and onstage. The stage manager is in charge of all technical crew and performers for all performances.

Costume Designer

Member of the staff who is responsible for the measuring of actors and the creation of costumes. This person is in charge of anything you will wear in the show.

The House Manager

Member of theatre staff who is responsible for the Front-of-House staff and organization for a particular performance. She/he is also responsible for the health and safety of the audience while they are in the theatre. He or she oversees any merchandising / concession stands as well as the ushers and any part of the building the public may enter during their visit to the theatre.

What To Wear For Rehearsals

You should wear comfortable clothes that are easy to move in. There are areas at the rehearsal hall to change. Foot wear: You always need to wear appropriate shoes. Flip flops, sandals or bare feet are never okay. Normal show shoes are as follows –women usually wear character shoes (these can be purchased at any dancewear store or on line). Men usually wear black lace up dress shoes. In the rehearsal hall sneakers or dance shoes are ok. When you get to the theatre you should have the proper shoes. The costume designer or director will let you know if you need any different or additional footwear.

Scripts and Music

Each actor will be provided with scripts or libretto (script and music for a musical). The scripts for plays are usually purchased by the Playhouse and are yours to keep. You can write in them and highlight them as needed.

The scripts and music for musicals are a different story. These items must be returned to the licensing company. Because of this, you must only write in pencil. YOU CAN NOT HIGHLIGHT.When the materials are returned they must be erased clean and in good condition.

If scripts are not returned or are returned not erased or torn the Playhouse is charged a fee by the licensing company. Because of this and to ensure the scripts return we sometimes charge a $25.00 deposit which is returned to you when the script is handed in.


Each volunteer receives two complimentary tickets for the show they are involved in. These are usually handed out at the first rehearsal to the actors. Technical volunteers should see the stage manager for their comps and orchestra should see the conductor.

Cell Phones

Cell phones are permitted in the rehearsal hall but should be placed on vibrate and only used in emergency situations or on breaks. Cell phones ringing are disruptive to the rehearsal process. Cell phones are not permitted in the theatre. They disrupt the sound system and are a distraction. We ask that you leave your cell phones at home or in your car during dress rehearsals and performances.  Theatre/ emergencies during performances 454-2852 × 0

The Theatre

How to Enter

Actors are asked to enter and exit the Playhouse through the door at the back of the theatre. The door is located to the west of the theatre next to the dumpster. During performances you will be asked to sign in every night. The sign up sheet is located at the bottom of the dressing room stairwell on the east side of the building.

Dressing Rooms

Dressing rooms are located above the backstage area and can be accessed either from the main staircase on the east side of the building or the spiral staircase off stage left. The spiral staircase should only be used for emergencies during performances. There are two dressing rooms and you will be instructed as to which dressing room to use. There are restrooms located in each dressing room and a shower in the top floor dressing room.


Bathrooms are located in the dressing rooms. During rehearsals you can also use the handicapped restrooms located in the front lobby next to the box office.

Food and Beverages

Food, such as McDonalds, is permitted in the lobby area and dressing room stairwell only. Dry snacks and hard candy are permitted in the backstage area and dressing rooms.  Beverages backstage or in the dressing rooms must be in containers with a sipper cup or sealed lid. Water only is permitted in the wings. In cases of illness, tea is sometimes permitted in the wings. You are not permitted to eat any wet food or drink any open beverage while in costume.


There is no smoking in any Playhouse facility. Rehearsal Hall – you can go outside the main door during breaks. At the theatre – you can smoke outside the dumpster door. You must keep all outside areas clean. You must wear something over your costume if you are going to smoke.


The backstage area is any space behind the stage. It is used to store scenery and as a holding area for actors during the show. The backstage area is limited to anyone involved with the production. Backstage guests are only permitted before or after a show and are never permitted in the dressing room area. Guests during the show are permitted at the discretion of the stage manager.

If during the show you should encounter others backstage who are not familiar to you, you should first ask them who they are and what they are doing there. You should then report it to the stage manager.

Concession Area

Candy and pop are available for purchase when the concession area is open prior to or during performances. You are permitted to make coffee during rehearsals as long as the area is kept clean. Coffee is available prior to but not during performances.


If you are injured during rehearsal, you should report it to the director. If you are injured during performances, you should report it to the stage manager. A first aid kit is located back stage

If as an Erie Playhouse volunteer you suffer a personal injury at the Erie Playhouse or Rehearsal Hall/Scenic or Costume Shops during rehearsals or shows, the Erie Playhouse carries limited accident insurance to supplement your own medical insurance. If you need to go to the emergency room insurance forms are available on the bulletin board in Cirino Hall or back stage.

In case of fire, fire extinguishers are located in right and left down stage wings, by the spiral staircase, by both back stage exits, the sound board and in each dressing room. You should make yourself aware of where these extinguishers are located.  There is also a fire curtain at the front of the stage which can be cut down in case of a lighting fire.


Scenery consists of many things – any flats, curtains (drops), furniture – anything that is used onstage. Offstage scenery should never be used for personal items or to sit on.


Any item that an actor holds in his or her hands is a prop. Props are usually stored backstage on a table. It is each actor’s responsibility to return his/her props to the prop table. If you are not able to do that, it is your job to talk to the stage manager and make arrangements. Under no circumstances should you ever touch or move any prop that is not yours or your assignment.


Costumes are usually provided for all actors. The only exception to this would be a modern dress show or a Youtheatre show. It is the responsibility of each actor to maintain his/her own costumes during the run. Buttons, snaps, small repairs and ironing should be taken care of by each actor. A sewing kit is provided in the top floor dressing room. Any major tears or damage should be reported to the stage manager, who will either take care of it or contact the costume department. Any laundering of costumes should be taken care of by each actor, although you should never launder or dry clean any costume without first consulting the costume department.

All costumes should be hung neatly after each performance.

There is absolutely no eating; drinking (other than water) or smoking in costume (you must wear something over your costume). Each costume is to be worn as instructed by the costume designer and should never be altered or changed without permission. Each actor is responsible for returning all costumes and accessories at the end of each run.


Actors are responsible for their own make-up. All actors should wear make-up unless instructed by the director or costumer. Standard make-up for most plays and musicals is base, eyeliner and blush worn by both men and women. Women also need red lipstick and false eyelashes. If you are allergic to eyelash glue, heavy mascara is an acceptable substitute. We recommend Max Factor pancake tan #2 as a base.

Instructions for any specialty make-up will be provided. Any prosthetics, beards or unusual items will be provided.

If you’ve never worn make-up before, just ask any veteran actors and they will help you.


The Playhouse almost always uses wigs for any period productions. These are provided for you and are fitted by our wig mistress. It is the responsibility of each actor to put his/her own wigs on and to store them as instructed for each performance. You are never permitted to alter, cut, comb, curl or change your wigs in any way. Never draw on or destroy the Styrofoam wig heads. The wigs are touched up every couple of performances by the wig mistress.


Floor microphones are located on the front of the stage and hanging microphones are located above the stage and backstage in front of the monitor.

Wireless microphones are usually worn by principal actors and some chorus.

These microphones must be picked up and returned to the sound board for every performance.

The sound technician will give you instructions concerning turning the microphones off at the end of each night. You should never wrap the wire around the microphone pack.

When putting your microphone on you should manipulate the wire so it is close to your face and mouth. It doesn’t work or look good if it is sticking out of the side of your head. Clear tape to attach the wire to the back of your neck is located in each dressing room.

The pack should be attached to your underwear, tights or hooked on your bra with the pack located next to your skin. Never attach the microphone to the outside of your costume or in a pocket. Some actors use a clip on belt pack, which you can purchase at any sports store. A belt worn around your waist or an ace bandage will also hold them in place.

You should always put your mic on before dressing and take it off after dressing. This saves pulling excessively on the cord. You should never remove your mic after a performance at the sound board in front of audience members.


The orchestra is an important part of any musical or concert. As an orchestra member you are one of the first people the audience sees and are constantly visible during performances.


Black dress casual or business casual. No jeans, sweats, t-shirts or sweatshirts are permitted. At times the orchestra may be asked to dress up or to wear costumes to fit certain shows.


Because the orchestra is in total view the entire performance certain behavior must be adhered to. Talking, eating, text messaging and moving around the pit are all distracting. You can read and do home work as long as it is done in a subtle manner.

Orchestra members are asked to adhere to the call time set by the conductor and to attend green room at each performance.

Stage Crew

Stage crew move scenery, pull drops, help dress actors, keep the backstage area clean and organized.  Attire – Black pants, shirts, shoes. Shorts, sandal, flip flops are not appropriate attire.

Stage crew should confine themselves to the backstage, wing area unless directed by the stage manager.

Stage crew is asked to adhere to the same call time as the actors and to attend green room every night.

Green Room

Green Room is a meeting of all cast, crew and orchestra that is held prior to each performance. Announcements and updates concerning the show are on the agenda. Green room is normally held in one of the dressing rooms or backstage. The Playhouse necklaces are also passed during green room. During the 1979 production of Fiddler On The Roof, two necklaces, each with a charm representing the show were started. For each show, a new charm is added to each necklace. Since 1979 those two necklaces have grown to thirty. At each performance, the current holder of the necklace passes it on to anyone associated with the production. Whoever has the necklace at the final performance carries it on to the next production. This necklace holder receives two complimentary tickets to the first performance of the next show and gives it away at the first Green Room.


For each production, memorabilia is created with the show logo on it. This is usually a t-shirt or sweatshirt and is available for any cast, crew or orchestra member to purchase. In addition, current show posters and other memorabilia are available for purchase during performances. Pictures of the show or a complete digital picture CD are available for purchase during the run, taken by a photographer hired by the Playhouse.


You should report any problems you encounter in the following Order.

  1. Director (at rehearsals)
  2. Stage Manager (at shows)
  3. Producing Director
  4. Executive Director


While volunteering at the Playhouse you will have the opportunity to work with people of all ages, races and walks of life. Always remember that everyone is expected to treat each other with respect and kindness. Adults are reminded that all interactions with minors should be of an appropriate nature. Minors are reminded to be respectful of their elders.

You will be asked to sign a sexual harassment policy that will be kept on file.