Wednesday, November 10, 2010

There are no small parts.....

I am constantly annoyed by people who ask, "How big the the role I just got in the school play?"
Such people come off as conceited and egotistic, more concerned about being important than in making the play important. It was the great Russian director and acting teacher, Constantin Stanislavsky who wrote, "There are no small parts, only small actors." He meant that only an insignificant actor was concerned about how large his role was. As a director, I knew how right he was. Actors who were too important to be in the chorus, were too important to be in the play in my opinion. The chorus was the most important part of the show. It was sometimes difficult to get people to be in the chorus, but it was always easy to find actors who wanted to play the leads.
When I became a professional actor, I saw the Stanislavsky statement at work among the other actors in my area. We worked in an area which was used as location for many films, but the roles offered to actors there were always quite small. This was due to the way films are cast. The main roles are always cast before filming even begins. By the time the casting director contacts an agent for roles to be cast in the location area, the only roles are the small ones. Some of my fellow actors were upset that our agent never gave them a chance to read for larger roles. They did not know how movies are cast. I tried to go to every audition my agent got me, and I took every part offered. Some of those jobs were extra work. Some had several pages of dialogue. I got a couple of parts without auditioning for them because my agent knew I could be relied upon to do the work enthusiastically regardless of the size of the role.
I had to take off from my teaching job to do some of the roles. But by doing the professional acting, I was able to teach my students how to become professional actors, and many of them did. My colleagues and administrators did not always understand how that was possible. A couple of my administrators once disagreed with me that my participation in films shot in our area was good PR for the school. They actually said to me, in a meeting disapproving of my work, "those are only little parts." I replied that there were no small parts. They said, "Oh, you don't really believe that." And I replied that I certainly did. Oh, well. The ignorance about the subjects that administrators supervise is well known.
The point of all this is that if you want to succeed as an actor, you have to be willing to be less important than the work.. Who cares how big the role is? Be darned glad you are in the show and do your best to make it outstanding. That way you will be a significant actor. Directors often see that and reward it.

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