All right, folks. It’s time to air my bitter, old chorus girl. I’ve been in a lot of shows. I’ve been on stage a lot of times. I am overwhelmingly grateful for all the shows I have been privileged enough to perform in and all the wonderful actors I have been able to work with. Even the shows that I never, ever want to do again put me where I am today.
But there are some actors I could live without. Surprisingly, it has very little to do with dancers who are bad at partnering or singers who insist on belting every note in a show. It’s the divas. The leads who ruin a production.
One of the shows I’ve enjoyed the least in my career was made bearable by our lead. He’s a lovely man. His incredible talent had little to do with why I loved performing with him so much. It was because he loved being on stage. He was a genuinely kind person who readily admitted that we were all saddled with a shit show, and rather than whining and giving up, he took the leadership role. Every day, he showed up and gave it his all, not complaining about how much he had to do or belittling the ensemble. He became the captain to our little ship and led us all through the storm.
The minute a principle says something like, “I do have a few lines in this show,” or “I’m the only one who does anything in this show,” they lose the support of the ensemble. You may be belting downstage, but we’re all kicking our faces behind you.
Being a lead automatically gives you privileges beyond getting the final bow. You’ll be the first to get a dresser in the dressing room closest to the stage. You probably get paid more than everyone dancing behind you. But with privilege comes responsibility. The responsibility to lead by example by showing kindness to your cast mates. The responsibility to not whine about how much you’re forced to do in the show. You have the responsibility to lead the cast to success.
Be the sort of performer the ensemble will be proud to sing oohs and ahs behind. We are all lucky to be on stage every night. Be the kind of person others want to see in the wings. Take the leadership role that comes with being the lead.