Creative Control

Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist

Small part.

It’s World Theatre Day, and my cohorts from across the globe are over at the WTD Tumblr blog talking about why they love theatre, and making lists of their 15 most noteworthy theatrical experiences.

I created a similar list last August, so today, instead, I’m going to post about the second earliest theatrical experience that I can recall.

The earliest was first grade, when I played the troll in a five-minute version of The Three Billy Goats Gruff. It was the first of many times I’ve played a villain and the first of many times that I’ve been killed onstage. I’m sure my therapist, when I get around to retaining one, will have much to say about this.

The second earliest experience was the first time I can remember sitting in a theater and watching a show. That was a second-grade class field trip to view a professional production of Rumpelstiltzkin. I don’t actually remember much of the production; I am fairly sure it was a straightforward retelling of the classic tale; or at least, the sanitized version of the tale that centuries of parental protectiveness would allow our fragile minds to encounter.

(Although, and I’ve discussed this extensively before, Rumpelstiltzkin is an odd duck of a fairy tale, being one in which there are not any characters with whom one can truly sympathize. Who do you root for? The greedy, lying father? The implacable gnome? The deceptive, deal-breaking daughter? The sociopath she marries?)

What I do remember, or rather who I remember, was the character of Clarence.

You may not recall the character of Clarence from your storybooks. As far as I know, he was largely a creation of the adapter, whose name I couldn’t tell you with a gun to my head. He was some sort of messenger, or pageboy, or jester…a clownish oaf of the royal court whose sole purpose in the script was to provide the dire proceedings (“He’s going to steal my baaaaaaaaby!”) with some levity. He may or may not have been the one who accidentally overhears the gnome drunkenly revealing his name at the 11th hour of the story.

I remember him being energetic and hilarious, deeply committed to the audience in the room with him. When we went back to school after the performance, our teachers asked us to write letters to somebody in the show. I don’t know how many people wrote to the gnome, or the prince, or the daughter. I wrote to Clarence. I remember being especially proud of the fact that, during a chaotic chase sequence in which the actors were running up and down the aisles and rows of the theater, he’d jumped right over my head, and I remember mentioning that incident in my letter.

I’m trying to get at something crucial here.

Every part of the production is important. Every person in the production is important. This often goes without saying, or it goes with such a matter-of-fact declaration that it fails to impart the full meaning of its truth. We say “there are no small parts, only small actors,” as an admonishment to ego or an oblivious declaration of same.

I can’t see the complete setup of my dominoes; what brought me to where I am now. But Clarence, actor who played Clarence, whoever you were, you’re a part of that. Every positive reaction I’ve ever collected from an audience, every time I’ve bought a ticket to a show instead of staying home with The Biggest Loser, you, Clarence, were a part of that.

Value everybody you work with. Somebody else, I can guarantee you, does so as well.

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This entry was posted on March 27, 2010 by in Action Items, Essay, Theatre, Writing.
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