Are Small Roles Vital?

By March 3, 2020 No Comments

There are no small parts, only _______ ________.

Do you know that phrase?  It comes from the theater…  “Small Actors”

There are no small parts, only small actors.

The phrase refers to actors who believe that a particular part in a show is beneath them: too few lines, too little stage-time, or not enough involvement with the main action. This is not a complimentary phrase at all. But I’d like to offer a different response, one that is more positive and much more inclusive.

After nearly 35 years in theatre, I’ve learned that everyone involved in a production is vitally important to its success. For a wrist watch to keep time, every cog and spring must function properly.  The same is true in theatre.  Everyone has a job to do and they must do it well for the play to be successful.

So, there are no small parts, but there are vital parts for vitally important people.  There are no small parts, only Key Personnel.

You can quickly see how important each person on the theatrical team is when:

  • The doorbell that is supposed to announce the arrival of the General Inspector who is there to solve the crime, does not chime.  A small but vital part.
  • The knife that is supposed to be placed in the top dresser drawer for the murderer to find, is not found. Frantically, the killer tosses open every other drawer in the dresser but comes away empty-handed. The weapon is still backstage on the prop table. (My bad.)
  • The blackout that is needed for the villain to commit the crime and then escape, does not happen. Instead, they must now improvise in full view of the cast and the audience.
  • An actor takes a quick snooze backstage and misses their entrance. (Awkward!)

“Out damned spot” is an iconic line in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, spoken by the actor playing lady Macbeth.  That actor is not an island unto herself for this scene.  There is a dresser who helps her into the sweeping nightgown, a stagehand who hands her the lantern, and a technical team to cue the lights.  Each must do their job for the scene to work.

In a marketing pitch the presenter is not an island unto himself.  There is a team who works on the marketing plan, a graphic designer, an assistant who prepares for the presentation, and so on.  They all must do their job successfully if they hope to get the client to sign on the dotted line. Everyone must be labeled as a: Key Personnel.

How best can we demonstrate this truth that everyone is vitally important to the success of the project?

  • Include everyone from the very start, making sure they understand the reasoning and the value of their task.
  • Acknowledge all contributions, giving credit where credit is due.
  • Practice so everyone feels comfortable with their responsibility.
  • Double-check that what is needed is where it’s needed.
  • Check in with everyone and encourage the entire team.