Thursday, July 12, 2012

"There Are No Small Parts..."

Konstantin Stanislavski, the great theatre innovator and director from which almost all 20th century Western acting has stemmed, once said, "There are no small parts, only small actors."

For me, this adage is one that not only reflects what any good actor should adhere to, but a life lesson for each of us to practice. Whatever our "role" is at any given time or place in life, we have the ability to give our best - no matter how seemingly small a contribution we are making. It is not our business to judge the quantity of our giving, it is our job merely to show up and be our best selves. A simple smile from one person to another can be just as important as donating a million dollars to a charitable organization. We never know who we are going to impact or how big of an impact we are going to make.

Thus, the same holds true if we are cast in a role that seems small, when what we really wanted was a leading role in the school play. It is what we make of our time and talent. It is what we give not what we get. When we put our time and energy into serving something greater - the play, the playwright, the cast, the audience - we typically reap rewards we had not previously been aware of. Our perspective enlarges and our world becomes bigger.

In a theatrical ensemble, every part is integral to the whole. In our drama classroom at TPA, the same holds true. To those of you who have been in my drama classes or worked with me in the Spring Musical, you know that this is what I refer to as the O.T.O. Philosophy (Other Than Ourselves). What we do in class (and out) has a great effect on our peers and our classroom experience. Whether we bring a negative or positive approach to the class and the work we do, that attitude will affect the entire class' experience - in an either positive or negative way. If someone comes to class unprepared, that will slow down either one or all of the other people in the class as well. It is up to each of us to accept our responsibility as part of the creation and maintenance of the group. It is up to us to bring our best selves to the work.

That does not mean we are not allowed to have "bad days" or moments. It is important to be authentic and to allow ourselves to feel our feelings. When we do, thwe allow others to be themselves - and that, too, is part of the O.T.O. philosophy and much needed for ensemble work, where creating a strong rapport and trust is most definitely necessary. If we walked around acting as if we were all right when we weren't, that would set us up for fbecoming great fabricators and wall-builders - something that would be detrimental to ourselves and the group. Hence, it is our willingness to keep it real and find ways to channel that energy so that it impacts ourselves and the group in a beneficial way.

The ETA (Educational Theatre Association) posted an article by Michael Deahn on their website that I would emcourage you to read. Deahn shares his thoughts on the importance of ensemble work in an article entitled No Small Parts: In the World of the Play, Everyone Counts.

This fall, the senior drama class will begin their semester exploring and experiencing the theatre methods of the 20th century, beginning with Stanislavski. In September they will embark on a wild rehearsal process and production creation of the Eva Le Gallienne stage adaption of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. This experience will offer this multi-talented class the opportunity to share their talents, play well their parts, and hone their ensemble skills.

I look forward to an exciting new school year!

Nicky Pitman