I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “There are no small parts, only small actors” before. We often tell this to young actors who have received their role in a show, counted their lines (ugh!) and have discovered that their friend has 36 lines while they only have 4. They truly have a small part.
If you are doing Romeo & Juliet and are the Apothecary, you have a small part. However, your part is still vital to the show. Without you, Romeo doesn’t get his poison and the ending is totally different. (For the better, actually… maybe we should re-write the show without the Apothecary!)
Just because your role is small, does not make it unimportant. If you fully commit to your character and know exactly why he/she is there in that scene at that time, you’ll be able to make each moment count. Your role could be the turning point of the show.
The Porter in Macbeth is a small role but has the potential to be extremely memorable and a hilarious comic relief in an otherwise heavy play. Lady Macduff and her son are only in one scene in the entire show. Macduff’s son doesn’t even have a name! Yet their deaths are extremely important to the rest of the show: it’s what urges Macduff to seek revenge on Macbeth.
This can be more difficult in musicals, especially ones with a large ensemble. When you are playing Fish #4 in The Little Mermaid among a sea of other fish, young actors may think, “What’s the point?”
Directors, help your actors to understand why their character is important and necessary; otherwise they may wonder why they’re even in the show at all. Remind them that being in the ensemble is awesome. Not everyone can be a lead or even a supporting role all the time. Some actors are just not ready yet or skilled enough for a certain part. Those people can learn from other more experienced actors and hopefully get bigger roles in the future. Or perhaps they are ready or skilled enough, but they’re not right for that particular part at that particular time. Acting is extremely subjective. It’s not a great answer, but it’s all I’ve got at the moment. Actors, it may help for you to remember why you do theatre. It’s up to you to figure out where you go from there.
My biggest piece of advice would be,
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