I’ve been blessed to play several small role but memorable characters over the years. Potiphar in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”, Big Jule in “Guys and Doll”, Selsdon Mowbray in “Noises Off”, Teddy Brewster in “Arsenic and Old Lace”, and Carlino in “Wait Until Dark”.
Each character stole the scenes that they were in. There is something very rewarding about hearing an audience roar with laughter, or begin to snicker the moment your character makes an entrance, or better still; getting the audience to react with a tension easing laugh during a drama like “Death of a Salesman” or “Wait Until Dark”.
After a six year absence from the stage, R Dub was back on the boards to play the minor character Stanley in BDACT’s production of Arthur Miller’s classic drama “Death of a Salesman.”
The role came to me the way that many have come in the past, the cast was set and someone dropped out or the right person didn’t show up for auditions. There was however, a slight difference in circumstances this time.
An earlier blog post chronicled the 20 month voyage of the original crew and cast due to the pandemic. The show was postponed one week prior to opening night due to COVID19 indoor restrictions. When the show finally went back into rehearsals 5 of the original cast members bowed out.
The Producer Bobby called Beth and asked if I’d be willing to take on the minor role of Stanley that had perhaps 7 or 8 lines. Beth volunteered me knowing that I wanted to get back onto the stage. A minor role was perfect for getting back into the theater scene.
Seven or eight lines was a bit of an understatement. Stanley was on and off stage frequently during the 20 page restaurant scenes. This scene begins with great expectations that could be a positive turning point for the Loman family fortunes. Instead, it is the beginning of end for our patriarch Willy.
Stanley begins the scene in lighthearted banter with Willy’s youngest son Happy who is looking forward to starting a business with his older brother Biff. Most of my lines took place at the beginning of this scene. Like many of my characters, Stanley steals the first few minutes of this scene.
Unlike most of my characters, Stanley turns out to be an empathetic soul at the end of the scene who offers a hand up, and a sympathetic ear for Willy who is now at the depths of despair.
Twenty pages of 120, but for those 20 pages Stanley is first on and last off. From jovial servant to empathetic caregiver. Stanley was a rewarding minor character and Diane Lutz my director let me make him exactly who I wanted him to be.
Next up? The lead character of Adult George Bailey in the onstage live radio production of “Its A Wonderful Life.” George Bailey will test my acting range and stamina.
As Konstantin Stanislavski is famed for saying: “There are no small parts, only small actors”.
I love small parts that become memorable characters. Here’s Stanley in action and my other favorite small roles.