How do bit-part actors participate in plays?

I have been cast for “The Bacchae”, but I got a much smaller role than I originally auditioned for. Some other Theater Majors had this happen to them, and they decided they would rather drop out of the play alltogether than to have a small role. I stuck with my role, even though it was the smallest one in the play (One of the Guards)

I have speaking lines, but they are very brief. I’m also only in one part of the play. I accompany Pentheus during his interrogation of Dionysus. I get to haul a tied up Dionysus on stage, while Pentheus talks to him (maybe I’ll get to rough him up before Pentheus starts talking :smiley: )

Because my role is so small, it has me wondering how much of the rehersals I’m actually going to be participating in. I wasn’t given specifics, only a schedule of when rehearsals start. I’m assuming the Director is still tweaking some things with the play right now, I know she wants to cut it down a bit so that it is only 75 to 85 minutes long, with no intermission. I’m still really curious about how much they are going to have me do. I certainly have the time to make it to rehearsals…but at the same time I also see the logic in some other cast members dropping out. It is a big investment time-wise, and I guess I want to think that I made a good decision even though I’m going to be spending a lot of my free time playing a very small role.

I’ve had bit parts in high school plays. In one case, I spent large portions of rehearsal helping to paint the set. Other days I was assigned to follow a five year old around and keep her out of trouble. her mother was the director.

In another case I had almost no (or perhaps no) lines, but I was in several scenes as sort of a living prop. (And memorably, I got to slap someone after the original slapper was kicked out for battling with the director). So, I spent a fair amount of time sitting on stage while the main characters ran and ran and ran their lines. When scenes didn’t involve me, I spent time off stage listening to people talk about their lives.

But if you truly are in only a couple of scenes, you may only have to attend parts of rehearsal or rehearse only certain days each week. You might be able to bring a book to read, or other quiet homework. or you might not. In the case of the first play described, cast members were EXPECTED to help with the set when not needed to rehearse their roles. Though, depending on the show, the director didn’t neccessarily expect people to be there every day. For at least one show a part like your was actually given to someone who was around all the time anyway, rather than someone who truly auditioned for it. I ended up getting additional lines because I was always around when they needed someone to read the lines. (The additional lines were voice-over parts and thus selecting someone to play the part early one was unneccessary).

HUMBUG! There are no small parts – only small actors.

Some of my best work has been with bit parts! Try to go to as many rehearsals as possible. Even if you’re not on stage, seeing the other business in other scenes will help round out your character.
For example, I was cast as Hattie in “Kiss Me Kate”. My character sang the opening song and showed up in sundry scenes later on, not many lines but lots of prescence on-stage I never rehearased with the chorus and my scenes were only with one or two of the leads. During rehearsals, I built up a character for Hattie. I decided she’s a wanna-be broadway star, nosy, and sulky. I was able to use those character choices to shade my performance and to this day, I still get compliments on my work. On the flip side, my lead acting roles in “Oklahoma” and “Spoon River Anthology” sucked beyond the telling of it.

And there are no cliches, either, only OVERUSED LINES THAT ARE WRONG ANYWAY! :stuck_out_tongue:

Of course there are small parts. There are parts of very few words and very little time on stage. There are parts that require very little in the way of preparation and rehearsal time. These are small parts.

Of course, even small parts are important parts. I once directed a production of Much Ado About Nothing that was about 3 small parts shy. Ended up finding some very interesting ways to get information across - the guard ending up falling down drunk and talking to a tree at one point, so we could have his dialogue as a monologue. T’other guy’s lines were just cut or subsumed into his monologue. Still, it would have been a lot easier if I could have had one more actor for that small part.

Most of the time, the first rehearsal or two is for everyone. You’ll do what’s called a “read-through”, where you all sit around a table and read through the script together. If the director has her shit together, this is also where she’ll tell you what’s cut and what’s remaining. The read through gives you and everyone else an idea of the flow of the piece. Everyone’s there for the whole read-through, even if you don’t come in until page 87.

After that, a good director will give you a rehearsal schedule with scenes (or maybe actors) listed on it. An entire rehearsal may be devoted to Act II Scene 4. If you’re not in it, you don’t have to be there. The director will let you know.

I would recommend working on sets or costumes or whatever if you have the time. The way to get a bigger part next time is to not only be good on stage, but to be helpful and charming and stay out of the way when you’re not needed, but be available when the director looks around for someone to go run and get her a coffee, or move a set piece, or fill in for that guy who’s missed three rehearsals and is late again and oh, my, isn’t **Incubus **nice and reliable and maybe he should be a shepherd instead of a guard? :smiley:

Success at college theater is 20% talent, 20% luck and 60% politics.

What she said. It’s great to get the big part but it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve played bit parts a few times and really wound up enjoying it. In my second run of “Our Town” I was cast as Dead Woman. I sat in the chair and barely moved for about 20 minutes. In the same production, I was also a guest at their wedding and a member of the church choir. I made up an entire back story for my character and I had a lot of fun doing it. I didn’t have to be at every rehearsal but I still got the fun from doing it.

What s/he said. Politics play a huge role in casting. Just the way it is. At the university I graduated from, a bunch of actors left a director in the lurch by refusing smaller roles after agreeing to take whatever part they were cast in. Those same actors had a bit of trouble getting cast at all in the next show. It’s all about having the right attitude. If the director knows you (and of course, has a good impression of you), you have a better chance of being cast.

Most male actors are afraid to admit it if their parts are small.

One rule of thumb is if you say you’ll accept any part, you had better accept any part. By doing this, you have already shown that you’re reliable. If you volunteer to work props or to assist with the dressing while you’re off, no only do you score more points, you also fill your time backstage with something other than losing money at poker.