Supporting Character– a character in a narrative that is not the focus of the primary storyline, but appears or is mentioned in the story enough to be more than just a minor character or a cameo appearance. Sometimes, supporting characters may develop a complex back-story of their own, but this is usually in relation to the main character, rather than entirely independently.
Since the beginning of my career on stage, I have forever and always been cast in supporting roles. It used to be a source of bitterness for me, maybe a sense of shame. Each time I read the cast list and saw my name beside a badass character like Penny, I felt proud that I had made the cast. But each time, deep within whatever crappy crevice I had, I felt a twinge of sadness.
Why wasn’t I ever the lead? Was I not talented enough? Did I not look right? What was so wrong with me that my directors had decided I was better off in a supporting role?
This incredibly ridiculous thought process was one that stuck with me through every single audition and show. From fourth grade, up until a few months ago, it was a heavy weight I carried.
After coming to the conclusion that I didn’t receive the “big” roles because I was talentless or ugly, I went to every extreme besides confiding in the obvious. Supporting Characters are my cast type. But as it usually goes in the launch of irrational thought, the logical explanation of casting types never even crossed my mind.
For years, I thought my looks were the problem. I worked out sporadically, ate less, and overall took on unhealthy habits to fit the image of what I thought was a Broadway Star’s body.
But obviously, none of those worked.
Doing unhealthy things will not help you reach and stay at your goal weight or state of health. It will only wreck you and prolong the necessary time to rebuild.
My dad tried to tell me this multiple times. Only hard work gets permanent and healthy results, and with something as important as your body, quick fixes just don’t cut it.
For years he tried to get the idea of the perfect body out of my head. He tried to push into my mind that the most important thing was only health. Health, health, health. But being eleven, all I heard was that I was fat. All I heard was that I was ugly. No good, destined for failure. All because I didn’t understand the process of results.
But set aside the physical appearance part of it. Set aside my weight and my height, my race and my gender. What was hurt most was my ego. In true musical theatre kid fashion, I wanted to be a star. Every kid who’s just starting out usually wants to be the center of attention, the best actor on stage.
For most of my time on stage, my friends and I were the ones who carried this want, this need, to be the one to shine in the spotlight. Most times, it resulted in an unwanted and unnecessary rivalry between us, all for a few more lines and an extra solo song (which most of us couldn’t sing well anyway).
There was, though, many smart and understanding ones that had always been completely happy with being Tree #1 or singing as one of the Townspeople with a shot of a few extra solo notes or lines. From the get-go, these people understood that your ability to create beautiful art is not based on who can see you, but how much work and passion you put into your craft.
Though I’d like to say that I have always understood this sentiment, I was not one of these people until very recently.
In one of my most recent posts, my third if I’m counting right, I touched a bit on the audition process of Urinetown. If you didn’t read that post, I’ll break it down for you.
1) The spring show was announced.
2) I read character descriptions and found Penelope Pennywise my most fitting character.
3) I did a complete 360 and auditioned for the lead.
To this day I can not fathom why I let the want of a lead role push me as far as actually auditioning for a part I knew I was not right for and didn’t actually want to play. But I did it anyway. It caused unnecessary strain and insecurity on my part, but overall ended in the best was possible.
The director took a long time deliberating the cast list, and as I was told by Chloe (who is his TA for Beginning Drama), was particularly struggling with where to place meAfter she told me this, I decided that I could take it one of two ways. 1) I could believe that it was because I was talentless and was so bad that he didn’t even know if he should put me in the show. 2) I could believe that it was because he didn’t know where to place what talent I did have and what things I could bring to the table for any character that he was considering me for.
Instead of deciding for myself, I decided that I would ask Chloe what she thought. Thank the theatre gods for that decision. When I asked her, she seemed to think that I was joking. But after realizing that I was, in fact, serious, she said the most beautiful and encouraging words that a friend possibly could have in that moment of pure doubt.
“If he didn’t think you were good, he wouldn’t be struggling so hard.”
She had put it so simply that I couldn’t believe how incredibly stupid I’d been. Our director is a straight forward man. He sugarcoats nothing and lets you know everything. If he truly believed that I didn’t have something special or that I didn’t have drive and passion, he wouldn’t have even let me into the class, let alone be deliberating for so long about the cast list.
In that instance, all seven years of experience came crumbling down. All the self-doubt, the unhealthy dieting, the crying after the posting of the cast list. All of it seemed so mind-numbingly dumb. Of course I had talent, of course I had passion. Getting a smaller part didn’t mean anything other than the fact that I was meant to play that part.
I didn’t get the lead, because I’m not fit for the lead, and that is okay. I wasn’t fit for Hope, and I may or may not be fit for future leads that come stumbling down my path. What I am truly and forever fit for is my passion. My passion to create, my passion to fulfill, my passion to tell any story that I can, and tell it well. Every production needs a leading man, every production needs a supporting hand. And it just so happens that that is exactly where I’m meant to be.
So of course, this little struggle is a continuance. Like I said, there are no quick fixes, no bandaids that truly fix the cracks in a time crunch. But there is understanding, there is learning, and there is so much more to Theatre than I previously thought there was.
One could look at their scripts and count lines, compare the numbers, and sulk in what they think is a small number of forgettable words.
But you could also embrace your incredible role. Study it, develop it, love it, play it. Play it with such passion that the world needs a new definition. Love it with such intensity that you want never to let it go. Any piece of this big Broadway world that we get to take, we should cherish. Not everyone gets their shot, so take it in stride. Be the best Tree #1, kill the three-word solo you have as Townsperson 2.
In any role remember this:
Whether anyone can see you or not, work towards showing yourself that there’s nothing you can’t do. You’ve got this, so keep creating.
Hi guys! Thanks so much for reading my blog post!
So sorry for the huge delay, but this is a topic I wanted to take my time with since it sure took its time with me. I should be back to the regular schedule on Thursday with a reflection post about a conversation I had with my parents a few days ago!
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