Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No small roles

We started the Papet Pasyon rehearsals again! Three new puppeteers are joining this year so I don't know if I'll still be bread or wine (or both). Anyhoo, here's a little something I thought about in last Sunday's rehearsals, and maybe it would be good to share.

It was my Theater 131 teacher Sir Behn (Behn Cervantes) who said those words in the title of this post. In fact, it's even longer than that. He said, "There are no small roles." I don't remember if he said it once or repeatedly throughout the semester, but it stuck with me. I remember it every time I do my work, or whenever I pick up a puppet, or even when I do some house chores, it reverberates in my head.

In my first Papet Pasyon, I remember having been assigned to do all those little stuff: the bread and wine, the bag of silver, the cross of Christ. And I remember looking at the other puppeteers with green eyes and thinking, "I wish I had an apostle or at least a puppet with rods on its hands." But as a newcomer, I only got to hold a dancer in the first number and all those little objects.

But as I've participated in more and more Pasyon shows and have handled more puppets, I've come to understand how difficult and important those little roles are. For one, you can hardly see in the dark and are more liable to be stepped on when you're crouching and praying for your dear life while everyone is standing around you carrying heavy wooden apostles. For another, just one little bad pass (like, say, in handling the bag of coins between Dathan and Judas) is a magnified mistake as opposed to a big blocking mishap among the larger puppets (with a person-puppet, you can always make it pretend it knows what it's doing; a bag of coins floating in the air, on the other hand, will be a magical phenomenon that fits nicely only in Professor Flitwick's first year class).

Finally, what's the Last Supper without the bread and wine?

It doesn't stop in Theater class or puppeteering. There are no small roles. In the work you do, have you ever considered any of your tasks a menial one? Imagine taking it out: does the office work still hold together? In Baby Mag, I've "arrrghed" over the task of compiling all the baby pictures in Baby Gallery and making sure the names are spelled right--but (surprise!) that's the first page mommies turn to when they buy the magazine! I know because there is always a letter saying thanks for publishing a baby photo. Small task, but important.

There is always that temptation to just do the little things haphazardly--after all, "no one might notice" or "it's just a little thing". But the truth is, in everything one does, one leaves a bit of himself...something like a stamp of ownership, or a proof of manufacture. Slipshod work, then, is just proof of a slipshod heart. (I say "heart" because that's where the "I" is--the real one, without the mask.)

In this way, it isn't only a matter of seeing the little things as important--anyone can do that. It's also a matter of wanting to treat the small things as big things, to put one's all in every task that lay ahead. I am shortchanging you by quoting Sir Behn incompletely. What he said in whole, which he directed as a challenge, especially to that lone shy and silly girl in his class was: "There are no small roles...just small actors."

So get to it!

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