“I’m so excited!!!” your friend shouts after being cast in a leading role and then glances at you, “Did you make it?” “I did!” you nonchalantly reply. You know the next question and quickly scan the ‘witty reply’ files in your brain to avoid the encroaching awkwardness, “Sooooo….what part did you get?” Through a cracked smile you dull-wittedly blurt, “Ohhhh, I’m in the ensemble.” Then after an eternal half second of awkward silence... “Well, that will be fun.” And you think to yourself, “Yes. Yes it will!”
Is it fun to play a lead role? Sure. But is it fun when you’re ‘only’ in the ensemble? ABSOLUTELY!!
Have you ever been to a show and watched the main characters? I mean, ONLY the principal roles? Maybe .001% of you have, but I think the rest of us mainly watch what’s going on in the background. I know I do! From a street vendor selling their wares to passersby, or a policeman comically chasing kids who snatched an apple from the produce man’s cart, to the girls giggling and making faces at the boys across the stage - this stage business is what puts the “live” in Live Theater!
Imagine this… you’re watching the Sound of Music when the Von Trapp children sing “So Long, Farewell” to dinner party guests - but there are no guests to hear the delightful chorus. Or Belle as she walks through her provincial town in the opening number of Beauty and the Beast - but the hustle and bustle of townsfolk is only a memory of the now ghost town. Or during the vividly verdant “One Short Day”in Wicked all the Ozians seem to have flown off with the monkeys. Seem like an entertaining show? Nope. And definitely a P.R. nightmare when your Social Media feed pops up: #dontwasteyourmoney #ishouldhavestayedhome #deadtheater.
NEWSFLASH: Without an ensemble the show would be B-O-R-I-N-G. (Disclaimer: unless, of course, the show is specifically written to not include an ensemble.) The ensemble is the fuel for the car, the crust to the pizza, the wind beneath….I think you get it. An ensemble that’s on stage with a purpose, doing what their characters would do, not only makes the show appear more realistic but also raises the wow factor from zero to hero!
I’ve been privileged to play both leading and ensemble roles - and find joy in both. But the fantastic thing about being in an ensemble is you typically get to choose who you want your character to be! You get to choose your backstory. Why are you there? What are you doing? How does your character advance the plot? You’re not expected to act a specific way for a specific named character. And with no expectations, the possibilities are virtually endless! How fun is that!?!
So, if you’re cast in an ensemble role - and your friend asks what part you were given, proudly exclaim, “I get to be in the ensemble, isn’t that awesome!” ...because YOU’RE the icing on the cake, baby!