Ensemble actors–how do you make them pop while not distracting from the story?
It can be hard reining people in from showcasing their exuberance and personality on the stage. I can speak to this directly concerning the work I’ve been doing on All Shook Up. Actors, myself included, have to be reminded that while you need to show personality on stage.. you need to let the story be seen and heard.
There’s a fine line between enjoying yourself on stage and hamming it up. It doesn’t take much to pull back and refine your motions, be smooth and clean–make small motions and figure out comfortable poses (you might be stuck in them for 5 minutes or more). Find a peer to work with directly, engage in a ‘conversation’ with one another (quietly), and remember to listen and pay attention to the scene around you. If your director intended you to eavesdrop, make sure you make your cue to react–no one likes to see a concurrence of reactions.
This can sound easy but it’s kind of difficult, and in the defense of every ensemble actor out there, it is easier than you think to go overboard in emoting and acting. If you are distracting the audience from seeing the story, they won’t be able to follow and will have to play catch up for the remainder of the show. Is that any way for an audience to enjoy a show? Absolutely not. You and your castmates did not spend the last three months of your life working on this show for an audience to lose interest or get lost in the plot.
Remember, as an ensemble actor you are one part of the story but you are not the entire plot. The audience is there to see how you enhance the plot, not drive attention away from it. Remain engaged but do not steal the show. ‘Til next time.