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Saturday, August 31, 2013

COMMUNITY and SCHOOL THEATRE: A NO DIVA ZONE!

Former student Taryn Lane as diva "Passionella" in "The Apple Tree"  Fortunately, Taryn was not a diva in real life.
Photo and costume courtesy of Michaela Petrovich

Today at Theater is a Sport, I want to talk about something that I believe firmly.  The title of the post says it all:  Community and School Theatre should be a no diva zone.  When cast in a school or community theatre production, it is best to check your ego at the door and be ready to work as part of a cast. 

Remember, there is no "I" in C-a-s-t.  (I say this when directing, and then add, "But there IS an "I" in director!"--- this is a joke.  Even though the director needs to be the number one person in charge, there is still no excuse for acting better than everyone). 

The beautiful thing about school and community theatre is that one should be involved because they love it.  You're not getting paid for acting in community theatre, other than the joy that comes along with being involved, so there's no need to try to put yourself front and center at the expense of your cast mates--- this isn't the race for more work that professional credits are.  Your livelihood does not depend on being the "star" in a community theater or school production, so please, enter into the endeavor with the mindset of being involved with an ensemble.

I know this is wishful thinking on my part.  I, myself, have sinned in this regard, and yes, human actors, even in the "amateur markets", love the thrill of performing in front of a live audience and getting attention for it.  And there's nothing wrong with that.  Just make sure that you can love the process almost as much, if not more. 

In high school and college, there are other factors that can lead to a diva-like attitude.  Maybe you're a senior in high school who has paid their dues in chorus roles and supporting parts your freshman through junior years, and now it's your turn to be the lead.  I get this, I do. The same thing happens in community theatre--- you've been a loyal player with your local community theatre for years, when is it going to be your turn to shine?  Why did so-and-so, a freshman, or, so-and-so, who just moved here, get the lead part, when I've been working hard for these people for years? 

Don't beat yourself up for having these thoughts.  But, unless you want to annoy everyone around you, and perhaps risk any future involvement in upcoming productions, don't share them.  I know it's hard, but, if you must complain, complain discreetly and not at rehearsal.  I'm not going to say "Your Time Will Come", as a good number of directors might, because that's not necessarily true.  You may not ever get the lead.  Not everyone can, no matter how much they love being in plays.  You might always be the sidekick, the supporting role, the walk-on waiter in scene two.... if your ambitions are beyond that, or it makes you resentful to play those parts, then try other places or just take some time off.  If you take time off from community theater and miss it desperately, it will certainly help you appreciate any part you get when you go back to it.  If you don't miss it, and develop equally pleasurable hobbies, then, congratulations, there you go!

On the other side of it, if you're someone who often gets cast in plum roles, that doesn't mean you are the local equivalent of Marlon Brando or Meryl Streep.  There's no need to flaunt your success.  There's no reason to talk to the director differently than anyone else, or expect special treatment.  Nothing's worse than the leading school or community theater actor who likes to flaunt their resume every chance they get, or talk about all their "training".  Please, oh please, avoid this "big fish" attitude.  Don't misunderstand me--- training and an impressive resume is great--- acting like you're any more important than your cast mates is not. 

I realize there is no way to wipe out diva attitudes in school or community theatre.... almost every group I know has one or two.  It's kind of the nature of things, really.  However, the best way to decrease that kind of behavior is in the director's hands.  Just don't tolerate it.  If you see that a certain actor is taking liberties, making other cast members feel bad in any way, or acting superior, talk to them about it, and let them know that the most important thing you want to foster is a "team" environment.  If this certain actor can't deal with it, then maybe, no matter how talented they are, they are not worth casting again.

MOST OF ALL--- remember that you make the CHOICE to be a part of community theatre or a school production.  Please do it for the right reasons.  Keep a positive attitude of fun an ensemble-spirit.  Help each other out.  Be each other's cheerleaders.  Encourage one another and rejoice in each other's successes, no matter how small (so-and-so got that dance step they've been missing, or Johnny got that line that's been giving him trouble!)  MAKE EACH OTHER LOOK GOOD.  When you're onstage, it's not about you--- it's about your scene partners and the audience!  That's how you make a tight cast, and a tight cast equals a bonded cast, and a bonded cast equals a terrific production.  That's what makes your cast mates your extended family.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. 

Until next time, please remember--- theater is a sport.  A TEAM sport.

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