Opening night gifts are a beloved tradition in the theater. These small treats and mementos are a wonderful way to make an exciting night feel even more special. After all, you’ve survived the weeks of rehearsal together — it’s time to celebrate!
Whether you’re a cast member, a director, or a member of the production team, it’s always appropriate to get small gifts for the cast and crew. These are some of our favorite opening night gift ideas; you can also give them out on closing night.
Top image courtesy of 冠緯 李 under CC BY-SA 2.0
1. Show Poster Magnets
We love this theater gift idea: turn your show poster (or logo) into a magnet! It’s the perfect opening night gift — affordable, small, and super meaningful. Your cast and crew will smile every time they see it on the fridge.
These business-card size magnets from VistaPrint are the perfect size (and they’re really cheap). To get the image of the poster, you can ask the director for the file, scan the poster, or take a photo with your phone.
Are you too close to opening night to wait for printing? Make your own! Print out a sheet of miniature posters (if you don’t have a printer, upload the file to your local WalMart or Walgreens for cheap one-hour printing). Attach the sheet to a thick piece of cardstock or foam board using spray adhesive. Cut them into individual posters, and glue a magnet on the back.
2. Themed Christmas Ornament
This one is a classic: a Christmas ornament that relates to the theme of the show. The trick here is to find affordable ornaments that you can buy en masse and then personalize. For Cinderella, you might find a tiny crown ornament and attach a tag with the name and date of the show. For Wicked, buy simple black witch hats and write the name and date of the show with a paint pen.
Need some ideas? Here are past opening-night ornaments our Theater Love team has received:
- Dice for Guys and Dolls
- Deer for The Sound of Music (“do, a deer”)
- Violin for Fiddler on the Roof
- Cow for Into the Woods
- Umbrella for Singin’ in the Rain (would also be cute for Mary Poppins)
- Venus flytrap for Little Shop of Horrors
3. Personalized, Handwritten Cards
Sometimes, you don’t have the money for splashy opening-night gift ideas — the costs can add up, especially with a big cast! A personalized card is a great alternative. Buy a pack of cheap, blank greeting cards, and write a personal note to each person in the cast.
Write about a memory, an inside joke, or simply let the person know you admire them. Be specific: “I’ve been so inspired by how hard you work”, or, “Your facial expressions during ‘Get Me to the Church’ are the best. I look forward to them every night,” or, “Thanks for always being so positive and ready to laugh! You always brighten the room and make rehearsals more fun.” Tape a miniature candy bar or another small treat to each envelope, and set them at each person’s place in the dressing room.
You might be surprised at what an impact this small, genuine gesture can have. A friend of Theater Love told us about his own experience:
When I was a teenager, I was always cast in the chorus in my local community theater shows. It’s often hard to feel appreciated or talented when you never get a lead role. One year, a director handed out notes for opening night. Mine said, “You do a wonderful job of creating a character and committing to it — it shows in everything you do, from your physicality to your relationships with the other characters on stage. It adds so much life and richness to every scene you’re in.” That one compliment made me feel that my presence was appreciated and that my work as a chorus member was valuable. I still think of it, 10 years later!
4. Theater Buttons
Buttons are a lost art, but they’re a fun (and cheap) opening night gift. Give one to everyone in the cast — they can put them on backpacks, rehearsal bags, or cork boards. These theater-themed buttons are a fun, low-stress option.
If you want something that’s a little more personalized, you can order custom buttons with the show logo. There are lots of places to get them made: we found personalized button options at Amazon (affiliate link), Etsy, and Stickermule.
5. Homemade Treats
If you’re an actor with more time than money, you can’t go wrong with homemade treats. Bake a giant plate of cookies, add a love note to the cast, and stick them in the green room. If you’re concerned about the mess — costumes and frosting don’t mix — package individual treats into plastic bags so actors can eat them after the show. This is especially convenient for a musical, since many actors don’t like to eat sugar before singing.
Make sure to make a separate plate for the crew — they’ll appreciate the extra effort!
A few things to keep in mind when baking opening-night goodies:
- Include a gluten-free option
- Avoid anything with nuts (a common allergy)
- Make a specific list of ingredients for each item
6. Bouquets (of Flowers or Food)
Flowers are a classic opening-night gift in the theater. They’re always appropriate, and almost everyone appreciates them. Of course, flowers are expensive, so it’s probably not reasonable to get a separate bouquet for everyone — consider giving them to the leading actors, close friends, the director, or the stage manager.
If you want to get flowers for everyone, here’s a budget-friendly hack: head to the grocery store and pick up a few dozen roses. (Wal-Mart often has them for $15-$20) While you’re at it, buy a few packs of colorful tissue paper and a roll of ribbon. Wrap individual roses in a sheet of tissue paper, tie with a ribbon, and you have a lovely gift for your fellow actors for less than $50.
Don’t want to get flowers? Why not make fun bouquets out of food? Tape individually wrapped candy bars to the ends of wooden skewers, and tie them together with a ribbon. (Find directions here and here.) If you have some extra time, you can do the same thing with packaged sugar cookies, beef jerky, or individual bags of chips.
Should I get opening night gifts for the crew?
Yes! This is a common question among actors — you love and appreciate the crew, but your relationship to them is often different from other cast members and directors. As a rule, try not to give the crew gifts that will make them feel left out.
How does that play out in real life? If your opening night gift to the cast involves an inside joke or a specific reference that the crew members weren’t a part of, get two different gifts. You can’t go wrong with something general: baked treats, show-related mementos, etc.
How much should I spend on opening night gifts?
Spend whatever you’re comfortable with, and don’t go into debt. It’s better to get something sentimental and affordable; your theater family will appreciate it just as much, and it won’t stress you out.
Is it okay to get gifts for just a few people?
Of course! If you do, just don’t make a big deal about it in front of the rest of the cast. Meet your friends on the way into the theater, or tuck the gift into their bag as a surprise for later. That way, you won’t make anyone feel bad.
Done right, opening night gifts delight your cast and crew. A great theater gift amps up the excitement and serves as a meaningful reminder of the time you shared.