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Friday, May 16, 2014

In Defense Of The Ensemble

A couple of months ago, I was having a conversation with some friends during intermission of a show at York Little Theatre. The topic of upcoming auditions came up over the course of the conversation and we mentioned the possibility of auditioning for a show that was coming up. "There aren't a whole lot of big roles for guys in that show", my one friend said. I wasn't overly familiar with the show, but decided I might audition all the same. The hypothetical lack of "big roles" didn't really deter me. In fact, I wouldn't have been looking for a big role any way. I would gladly take any role.

Now don't get me wrong, if I were to ever audition for a show and was offered a pretty substantial role I would gladly accept it. But I'm equally happy to be told, "You're in the ensemble" and then potentially play a multitude of characters. When it comes to theatre, I'm of the mindset of just being happy to be involved regardless of the role. But I have known people in my time from high school through present day who have no interest in being involved if they aren't a lead. Now I know there are people who have logistical reasons for only being willing to accept certain roles such as travel distance from their home to the theatre or other such time and location based constraints. That's perfectly fine, I can understand that. But for those that do so for reasons of ego and feel that "ensemble roles are beneath them", my mind just can't process that.

I guess maybe it's because I feel I know my limitations. I've never really considered myself to be a strong singer. And as far as dancing, I'm lucky if I'm capable to walk in anything that resembles a rhythm. Also, I know I don't look like what many would consider the typical leading man. But you know what? I'm fine with that. As a friend put it to me this past weekend, "You're a character actor". There's always a place for the character actor in the acting world!

Let me close out this post with another story. Last summer after another show at YLT, I went out to Arooga's with a couple of friends of mine. I don't recall exactly how it came up, but I guess the topic of conversation drifted towards auditions and casting and the like. This sort of thing does happen when theatre people gather though. So my friend Rachel posits this hypothetical situation to me; "Suppose York Little Theatre was to do 'Phantom of the Opera' one year. Would you audition for Raoul?" Now for those who may not be familiar with "Phantom", Raoul is the secondary male lead and the romantic interest of Christine, the female lead. I said no and, if I were lucky,  I figured at highest I'd be cast as either one of the two opera house owners or, more than likely, I'd be in the ensemble. She thought this was a completely reasonable response. Of course I followed this up by saying that it was equally likely that I'd be watching this particular production from the audience because, let's be honest, you need some serious vocal skills to do "Phantom" regardless of the role. And if I felt that discretion was the better part of valor on this occasion, I would pass on the audition and eagerly await opening night for the show.

Although, I've often thought "Nothing ventured, nothing gained". Life has a way of surprising you, much like it did to me when I was cast as part of the quartet in "The Music Man". So, I guess it's all a matter of seeing what comes up. I'm looking forward to seeing the upcoming season schedules and seeing what potential rehearsal options will await me. Leading role? Ensemble part? I'll take whatever I'm offered because I love being on stage and I look forward to being back on it again!

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