About This Blog

I really like theatre, and I like writing and talking about it.

This blog is mostly about my relationship with theatre, the moments that make me fall in love with this art form, and the times when we don't always get along.

I'll be writing about things that I like, that I think are good and interesting and want to share. I will probably also write about things that I don't quite get, or think are wierd. I may also write about things that aren't theatre, strictly speaking, because it's my blog and I can.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No Small Parts

Seriously. There aren't any.

I remember a lesson from the summers when I went to a theater day camp during my vacations. We went to see a show at another children's theater--I don't remember what the show was, I think it was based on a Tomie dePaola book. The only thing I remember about it--and what we all agreed was our favorite part later--was the girl who played the goat. She had zero lines and her character was not important to the plot. Our camp counselors asked us why we all liked her so much, and why she was so interesting to watch.

It was because she was having fun. She was fun for us to watch because she was clearly having a great time playing her role.

Another good example is a production of Twelfth Night which I designed for my theater company this past summer. The character Fabian is usually kind of a throwaway role--he shows up halfway through the show which no introduction, everyone just acts like he's always been there. He helps out some other characters in their scheming, but that's about it. The director gave the role to Tracey, who played the role as a man. She's a great comic and Shakespearean actress, but he didn't have a female role that she fit in that show.

Well, she completely owned it as Fabian. She took a nondescript character, and turned it into a comic foil so funny, she consistently got spontaneous mid-scene applause. She's also the only person I know who can ad-lib Shakespeare successfully.

So now I find myself doing a Shakespeare play, and while I'm on stage a lot, there's not a lot of information about my character in the script, and I don't have a lot of dialogue. So I did the most important thing any actor can when creating a role- I made up a backstory for myself. A lot of it was based on the experiments we did with Laban Movement Theory; I discovered what kind of movement felt right for my character, and then came up with a reason why he might act that way (we're women playing male characters).

Thanks to my background development, I now have a character who has specific motivations and relationships that inform how she reacts to what's going on onstage, which gives me something to do even when I don't have lines. The best thing is, even though I completely made up this character's personality, my director is being completely supportive. He's even finding opportunities in the scene for my character to have more specific reactions. And as a result I'm having a lot of fun playing him.

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