This is the debut of our new advice column, Ask Meryl, in which a local theater veteran shares words of wisdom with our readership. If you have a question you'd like Meryl to address, send her a note at [email protected] Enjoy!
When it comes to social media, we are living in a brave (and sometimes awkward) new world, for which the road maps and instruction sheets are still being written. After learning a few lessons the hard way myself and being repeatedly induced into a perma-cringe by my actor-filled Facebook feed, it seems clear that we’re overdue for some basic dos and don’ts for actors on social media.
Do find out if the theater you’re working for has a social media policy or preferences. This is the kind of thing that’s often addressed at the meet-and-greet before the first read-through at larger theaters, but even then, it’s not always explicitly stated. If they don’t bring it up, ask about it if you’re a big social media user. Some theaters won’t care at all if you tweet or post on Facebook to your heart’s content. Some will ask you to do so! Others have whole departments of employees dedicated to controlling the theater’s public image and show-specific messages. You don’t want them doing damage control for something you plopped online without thinking.
Don’t post every time you have an audition or a callback. I know: you’re feeling anxious, excited, and worked up. You want to share, share, share! You want to ask for encouragement and express your hope and nervousness. You should do those things. You should call a friend and do those things. Go for a walk with your beau and do those things. Pull out your journal and do those things. What you should not do is put it online, where everyone in your social network--some of whom may have been hoping for that callback or are wondering why they weren’t invited to that audition--will see it. It can be hurtful, and it’s not appropriate or necessary. Choose your audience, check your motives, and share judiciously.
Don’t announce casting information. Theaters like to do that themselves. Once they’ve put it out there, go ahead and celebrate, congratulate, express your gratitude and excitement, etc. Just sit tight until the press releases have been issued, the season brochure is printed, or the theater’s Goodyear blimps have flown their banners.
Do cooperate with the theater to help promote your show and create buzz. Find out if they’ve created a hashtag for your show’s title. Use it, post it, pimp it. Be positive, playful, and authentic. Invite people into the world you’re creating, and make them excited to see the finished product.
Don’t post pictures of yourself in costume before publicity photos have been released. This is a copyright issue. The designers’ work is copyrighted--yes, even if your face and body are the canvas--and it can be considered a violation to post pictures of it online. As far as I know, no one has ever been sued for this, and its relevance probably varies greatly from theater to theater, but it’s a thing. Just be aware of it and proceed with caution.
Do post about things other than yourself and your work. You know how they attach commercials to much more entertaining things, like sitcoms and YouTube videos of screaming goats? Every once in a while, give the self-promotion a rest and be a screaming goat.
Do maintain connections in person. Social media is deceiving, and actors are delicate creatures. If you took your Facebook feed at face value on any given day, you’d be forced to conclude that everyone except you is booking work like crazy, super happy for all the other work-booking uber-talents in your industry, and eating something scrumptious right at this very moment in celebration of how lucky they are to be working artists who get great reviews and travel bi-weekly to tropical climates. The reality becomes clearer the moment you sit down for lunch with your non-stop work-booking, uber-talented friends and share the kind of honest, vulnerable, supportive, and generous conversation you can only have in person. Do that.