There are no small parts, only small actors. – Constantin Stanislawski
It’s a famous phrase in theatre, and we know its truth. In a stageplay, television show, or movie, roles that are small in terms of lines or screen time can be integral to the plot. Or they can provide an opportunity for an unknown rising star to steal the scene. Or allow an all-time great to remind us all why they are considered great.
Boba Fett speaks only a few lines in the original Star Wars trilogy, yet became one of best-loved characters of the films. In Silence of the Lambs, Anthony Hopkins needed only 16 minutes (out of a 2-hour-long movie) to win Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance. With the right actor, in the right role, a few minutes, a handful of words, are all that’s needed for magic to happen.
The saying is often spoken to actors disappointed with their role, and it’s meant to encourage them to invest in what they have been given. Having only a few lines doesn’t give you an excuse to slack off. When I was ten or eleven, I was cast in a church youth group’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. I had a very small role, with only two lines in the entire show. During one of our performances, another kid sat in my seat by mistake during a scene. While I was arguing with him under my breath, trying to get him to move, my cue came and went. An older kid covered for me, supplying my line at the right moment, and I spent the rest of the show in red-faced silence. This wasn’t Olivier flubbing a Shakespearean soliloquey, but it was a pretty good indication why I wasn’t given a larger role.
Is it also true in our work and daily lives that there are no small roles, only small actors? Continue reading There Are No Small Actors