If you haven’t figured out by now, I love musical theater. While I write this, I am actually waiting for the “PLACES!” call to be made for my 21st musical through a wonderful theater group called CYT. Cinderella has been a blast. I adore the story, and the musical has been so much fun (even more fun than the first time :D)
This is the first show in a while that I’ve done with CYT that I have been in the ensemble. No lines to memorize, no big solos. I wish I could say that I was thrilled when the cast list for this show came out in December, but to be honest, I was a little disappointed. I had gotten used to getting a script. I like learning lines, and getting to have a bit bigger spotlight, and because of that, my pride took a hit when I learned that I was in the ensemble. But you know what? This has been one of the best shows I have ever been apart of.
There’s a lot of great things that you can learn when you aren’t a lead. Here are some things that I’ve learned after many times of being in the background.
You never know what kind of dance you’re going to learn being in the ensemble. I did one show recently where I learned a tap dance, a ballet dance and two partner dances. Not being restricted to a lead role gave me the opportunity to expand my dance experience, and for that I am very grateful. It beats being in dance classes!
This might be a personal one, but let me know if you relate. I do improv a lot (in fact, I’m on a team that’s going to California this summer to compete), so I often try to find funny things to add to scenes. Sometimes, it’s easier to add bits to a scene when you have a script. Peter Pan, for an example, had a lot of improv. That might be because Captain Hook and I have a lot of experience acting together, but we often found little ways to make lines funnier. But in the ensemble, you are free from a script. You can develop a character all on your own and it adds to the show as a whole. I’m glad that I’m part of a cast whose ensemble does not look bored to death in the background.
This is something that everyone can do, but it’s especially true to ensemble members. You are often watching the directors work with other cast members, and you can pick up techniques and tips from just listening to other actors being directed. You never know when something you’ve heard will help you in a future audition or role.
In many shows, it’s the ensemble folks who have the most costumes. Now, in Cinderella, our sweet leading lady has an impressive wardrobe, and the other leads have multiple costumes. But often, many leads will only have one costume while ensemble members have 2, 4 or 6 different costume changes. In the show I did over Christmas break, my fastest change was about 30 seconds: I changed from a black evening gown and black shoes to a bright green dress with tan shoes. It can be stressful, but it becomes almost a science when you get all your changes down.
My favorite thing that has come out of Cinderella is the friendships that have come from it. When you are a lead, you often don’t have time to interact with the other people in the cast. You only really hang out with your fellow leads, which isn’t horrible, but you don’t get to meet everyone. With this show, I have done my best to talk to as many people as possible, especially the kids that are younger than me. I have gotten very close with my fellow ballroom ladies and it’s been so wonderful to just chill out and talk and laugh with them. You never know when you are going to impact someone, or if little feet are following you.
In all honesty, if you asked me if I had the choice between a lead and an ensemble member, I would probably pick the lead. But, I feel after going through this show, I will not be extremely upset if I am part of the ensemble in the next show I’m in. I strongly believe that every role I get is hand picked by God, and whether it’s for something I need to learn or I need to be in a place to be there for a fellow cast member, I know that every part is perfect for my current situation. While it’s fun being a lead, it can also be a blast being in the ensemble. It all depends on your attitude 🙂
Until next time,