I have said a million times that casts do not have to bond socially in order to do their jobs on stage. However, it certainly is fair to say those jobs are much harder when there is no social connection.
Indeed, with most community plays, I dare say some sort of social bonding is inevitable. Perhaps not with everyone, but certainly with various different parties and factions within the cast.
And with social closeness comes playfulness. And with playfulness comes levity. Both of which are fine, but...sometimes levity leads to pranks. On stage pranks. And I for one have in general been against them.
Yes, they can be quite fun. They can sometimes bring people closer, and without fail they break up the monotony of later rehearsals, when everything seems to be going exactly the same minute to minute each night...even using the bathroom at the exact same moments. The temptation is great to go for the gag.
But the truth is, despite what humor their may be, they potential costs out weigh such antics:
-Even the best of actors can be thrown when a very carefully rehearsed routine is interrupted.
-If the gag itself is not rehearsed numerous time, (and any gag that would be would cease to be a gag) always has the potential of going wrong. In terms of timing, appropriateness, the target of the "attack", or, in some very foolish cases, in terms of safety.
-Other actors on stage, that are not in on the joke run the risk of thinking something else is going on. Or worse, have no idea what may be going on. Remember, those people rely on the lines and blocking of other people to know what they are supposed to do next.
--It is exceedingly rare that a director will be as amused as you and your co-conspirators are.
All that being said, I know that gags and pranks are going to happen. Ergo, in order to avoid the problems I have just mentioned, those that simply must prank during a show should follow the following guidelines:
--Naturally, there should be in no way, any potential for danger, even the slightest bit, for the shortest amount of time.
--You should know the "target" personally quite well. As in friends before and after the show. Any less than that, and you may have an eruption on your hands. NEVER try to MAKE new friends in this way. You have no clue how an actor might act, and we tend to be a sensitive breed.
--Perform the gag, or have it discovered by your target during a scene wherein he will have few lines, and little blocking. That way there is plenty of time to recover, and whatever reaction they may have to said stimulus will not, hopefully affect the scene. (Crowd scenes, for example. I have been known to throw the odd shocking phrase at people when my character is in the background of a scene, when I know I will not be speaking officially for a considerable length of time.) This is especially true if you plan to do it during a performance as opposed to a rehearsal. (Which I advise against in the first place.)
--Do not do anything during tech week. Though this stressful time is when it could be the most tempting, everything should go exactly as planned on tech week, for actors as well as crew.
--Don't get caught by the director.
--Inform every single other person that is in the scene of what you plan to do to your "victim". This runs the risk of the beans being spilled, but if a significant number of others in the scene object to whatever you have up your sleeve, you shouldn't be doing it anyway.
--One prank per run of a show is sufficient.
Everyone wants to have fun, and we all like to spice things up occasionally. And though you find yourself in community theatre, that does not translate into "unimportant". Alot of people work hard, and people still pay money to see your show. No sense in mucking it up for everyone who does not find your hidden fart machine on stage particularly amusing.