Learning to be a successful ensemblist is not only something you can do as a professional. Across the country, thousands of student actors learn the skills necessary to perform in ensembles in their school and youth theatre productions. We asked the ensemble of Orange County School of the Arts' production of The Drowsy Chaperone what they are learning from working on the show. Below are excerpts from some of their responses.
"The atmosphere an ensemble establishes in a show makes it less about “performing” and more about creating. This fall, I have been given the opportunity to take part in bringing The Drowsy Chaperone to life. It is in these rehearsals that I have learned the most about the teamwork that goes into becoming a strong ensemble. The ensemble has taught me to work as part of a team, to be others focused, and to be versatile.
"I was reminded of this fairly recently when I saw the national tour of Newsies. It was the ensemble that shaped the story and transported audiences to the year of 1899. It was the beautiful shapes that the ensemble created by simply moving sets that I was raving about as I walked out of An American In Paris. It is nearly impossible to think of 42nd Street without “We’re In The Money” or West Side Story without the Sharks and Jets."
- Sarah Tweed
"When I found out I was accepted into the ensemble of the The Drowsy Chaperone I was super excited. For most of my high school career at the Orange County School of the Arts, I have participated in the ensemble in most of my productions. Every time I participate, it is such a joy and pleasure. By being in the ensemble, I have gotten to explore many different characters. Sometimes numerous characters in one show. In elementary school, I was cast in the production of Grease where I went on stage as a Rydell High student, then a teacher, and then an angel in the song, “Beauty School Drop Out”. Each time I went on stage, something new happened and I remember feeling very put to work, and in different places, because I was playing 3 different characters in one show. When I was cast in the production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as part of the ensemble, I wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen. This turned out to be one of my favorite shows, because I was almost always on stage. I was a Canaan dancer, an Egyptian, a maid of Potiphar, a horse, and even a pharaoh fan club member. Being in Joseph really showed me just how wonderful being in an ensemble is.
"Since then, I have tried to make the most out of being cast in the ensemble. I have also met so many new friends and created so many bonds. Acting, Singing, and dancing on stage in the ensemble is really fun and amazing. It keeps the ensemble members extremely busy. Sometimes, we are busier than principal roles on stage. I have never found, that being in the ensemble is a disappointment or drag. It has always been meaningful and worthwhile to me. Being an ensemble member in The Drowsy Chaperone has been so much fun, and Mr. Barnhardt has really helped us ensemble members feel special and put to work. I cannot wait to do future shows with him!"
- Sheindl Spitzer-Tilchin
"Similarly to a blog, an ensemble is a place where people in the theatre community, like myself, can go and share bits and pieces of who they are and what they have to offer towards the overall goal to eventually assemble the distinct segments, or actors', into one work of art. A key player in deciphering the importance of an ensemble is to look at it's base foundation. Me and my friends being viewed as a whole rather than individually. A body. An ensemble. It really is about the group; the product that the cast makes and how that product can benefit other individuals as well as other groups who get to step in and speculate upon the many puzzle pieces that are being wormed together through a tedious process of rehearsing and complex research.
"This leads to the next key aspect of an ensemble, the team building. The message that's being portrayed by the work held together by my peers and I truly becoming one unit, tying into each other and locking in on what we have in common and allowing those aspects to come into collaboration to create a piece which not only represents the artwork itself, but also representing who we are. The embodiment of one entity formed by my cast makes every work not only unique to our version, but also unique to me as a performer.
"Therefore, when people sit in and watch that end result of the last piece fitting into our laborious puzzle, the ensemble is to thank, for we are the corpse. The building block. The base that allows for the show to progress until a fully functioning body is built and ready to perform tasks with the love and passion that first ensued when I as an actor, ensemble or not, decided to walk into that audition room, and show that I was meant to be a piece in the puzzle that a musical is."
- Shanna Brajevic