When I joined LPP years ago, my first play was directed by the Late Great Reg Renwick. He was a big player on the circuit of amateur drama as a judge at many a drama festival back in the day and this was his own play. He wrote the play (a very sad tale of a woman dying of cancer) and chose Leeson Park Players to perform it. I presume he could have chosen one of several different groups to perform it but he chose LPP perhaps because he himself had been in and directed many productions with us over the years. Indeed he was made an Honorary Life Member which shows a special kind of commitment to Leeson Park Players. I also like to think that it showed that he especially respected the comradery of our group, the quality of the work we produce both in the acting and in the production values, and also the level of commitment that each member, new or old, showed to the production of a play.
Back then, if you were fortunate enough to be cast in a play you made sure you could attend all the rehearsals you were required at. You made sure that the weekend prior to the show you were available for the building of the stage and set, you made sure to drag yourself out on the Sunday after the show to put it all away again and you made sure you were On Time to rehearsals every week. To not do so was scowled at, the height of rudeness and to be labeled Unreliable was a death knell to any ambitions to become a leading light in any show.
When you are involved with a play you are part of a team. When you are cast in a play you are an essential element in the production – there are no such things as Small Parts in the importance of a show. Sure there are plays where some parts have less to say, less stage time than the other parts, but at the moment where the ‘small part’ actor is on, at that moment they are as integral to the whole show as the actor with 500 lines. If they fall down on their job, if they don’t deliver with their part it could bring down the whole play. A moment of weakness with one member of the team could bring the whole thing to a standing stop. Which is why we rehearse.
We rehearse to learn our moves, we rehearse to learn our lines, we rehearse to find our characters and to learn how to portray them as best we can. We rehearse so we become familiar with everyone else’s lines too. We rehearse so we can react to other actors lines within our character. We rehearse so that we can know the play, so that we can discuss the play, so that we can be guided by the director and by each other. We rehearse to become a team.
In this play, our current production The Flint Street Nativity, there are no small parts. In some ways it’s topsy-turvy as some of the characters with less in the traditional measurement of roles, lines and cues, will have a greater impact on the audience than others with more. Every player in this play is essential to the story. Every Player has full importance with this play. Every Player is an essential member of the Team.
It’s frustrating as a director to rehearse with less than the full team but these days it has become commonplace. I know for Lonely Hearts there were only Two Nights including all rehearsals and Performances (!) that we had a Full Cast. Is it our lives are overfull? Are we all so busy running around that we’re trying to cram in everything? I think I’m going to blame texting and emailing. Back in the day if you weren’t going to be at rehearsals you had to phone the director and have to actually Talk to them about why you weren’t going to be at rehearsals. Depending on the director that might have been a scary experience unless you were phoning from the hospital! Now you can just send a text or an email with no emotional repercussions.