Saturday, March 2, 2013

There are no small parts, only small actors

The Saline Area Players are in full swing preparing for their spring production of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka.  The show will be performed April 19-21 at the Ellen A Ewing Performing Arts Center at Saline HS.  Auditions took place in January and rehearsals started two weeks ago.

A familiar saying in theater is….  “there are no small parts, only small actors.”  I googled it and found many sites devoted to this quote with various thoughts about what that means.  One meaning suggested was that your part is only as important as you make it, meaning that a good actor would take the opportunity to play the part to the best of their ability.  Another interpretation is that every actor in the production plays a purpose.  Or, that each actor must be well prepared, professional and in character. 

So, for fun, I interviewed a variety of actors in our production to see what they liked about doing their roles.  Some of them talked about what fun it was to be in the show, and others shared what little bits they bring to the role.

Some talked about the pure joy of doing community theater:

John Paul Gregor (James) – “I really like being in theater because I get to meet new friends and it is fun.  This is the biggest play I’ve been in yet and I’m really excited!”

Christopher Calmes (Danny) – “I get to meet people that are different than I meet anywhere else.”

Cindy Grammatico (Oompa Loompa) – “What I like about the part is that before the show I get to walk around and greet people and sing fun songs and dance a little and meet people and make friends and be on stage and perform.”

Alexia Miller (Oompa Loompa) – “I like it because I get to sing at the beginning of one of the most important songs, The Golden Age of Chocolate, and I get to walk around at the beginning and get to speak a line.”

Some talked of the thrill of helping out:

Naomi Cotner (cook) – “I’ve been in this show and it is really fun which is why I wanted to do it in the first place.  I was a candy man kid and a squirrel.  I like being offstage as well as onstage!”

Danielle Primeau (Matilda) – “I like being in the show.  This is one of the biggest parts I’ve had.  I like theater and helping behind the set.  I enjoy building things and painting scenes.”

Libbey Hansen – (Oompa Loompa) – “I like how nice the people are and how fun it is to be with everybody, and how Tami (the director) can cooperate with everybody because there’s lots of people to direct.”

Some talked of what this show means to them:

Beverly Wolfe (Grandma Georgina) – “I like it because Audrey (daughter) and I are both in it.  It is kind of fun to be the comic relief of the Bucket grandparents.  I’ve known Rich, my “husband” for many years, so it makes it fun.”

Erian Williams (Mrs. Bucket) – “This is my first big production since HS so I’m really enjoying it.  Cheer up, Charlie almost made me cry tonight – it is so pretty.  It is fun to be a mother… and kind of scary, but Ben (plays Charlie Bucket) is cool.”

Bonnie Black (Grandma Josephine) – “I love coming back to it (the theater) after being away from it so long.  My last play was 1991.  I just did an independent film last year called Mary Buttons.  I love being back in theater!”

Emily Manuell (Cook) – “I’m pleased to be trying a new theater group.”

Some talked about their particular character:

Olivianna Calmes (Violet) – “Being in this is fun because you get to be someone you’re not.  I like my part because it is not like me and totally sassy.”

Hannah Burkhart (Veruca) – “I like the community – it is really a fun experience.  I never had a role of this size before and it is really exciting and something to look forward to.  I am the polar opposite of Veruca except that I like to wear dresses.”

Adelaide Gregor (Sophie) – “I like capturing people’s attention and being able to act like different people.”

Lucy Fischer (Squirrel) – “I like singing and hanging out.  I don’t know what the squirrels do yet, but it has to do with good nuts and bad nuts.”

Annette Manuell (Cook) – “I’m pleased to be making my acting debut at the grand old age of 42.  I’m as ‘pleased as punch’ to be up there.  My friends laugh because I’m very pink and sparkly and they are waiting to see if I’m going to bring a sparkle to my chef costumes.  We may wear scarves and I asked for mine to be pink.  I want the costumer to bedazzle the chef’s hats too.  I am hoping to bring some pink and sparkle.”

And, my favorite quote so far, that really embodies the phrase about no small parts, only small actors….

Francesca Brayman (Cook) – “I like that name that I made for myself – Uschi – it means little she-bear.  I always do that to give the person more character and personality!”

So, what does it mean that there are no small parts, only small actors?  From interviewing all these wonderful actors, young and “older,” it seems to me that part of what it means is that each actor puts their whole self into the experience, from the squirrels to the cooks to the named characters - onstage in their parts, backstage helping out, finding ways to make it fun, and to fully experience the community.  I’ve been to some of the first rehearsals and there is excitement in the air!

For more information about the production and to see the full cast list, check out the Saline Area Players website:  If you’re interested in seeing photos from the rehearsals, check out SAP’s facebook page at

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