ACT EP #8: What Kind of Community Theatre Actor Are You? (The Muppet Test)

It’s time to have some fun, but not too much. And get focused, but not too finely. And stay passionate but not too intently. Unless of course you’re a Muppet.

You’re listening to Acting for Community Theatre, a little show with big ideas, stories, acting tips, and a lot of heart for community theatre artists. I’m Barbra French.

Today will be a fun take on what kind of community theatre actor you are by looking at some of our favourite Muppet characters. Your strengths, weaknesses, aptitudes and challenges, as well as your level of professionalism are all helpful things to consider when doing a self evaluation. And while comparing yourself to an imaginary character may sound silly, stepping back and viewing yourself through a filter can be a very effective technique, so it doesn’t quite feel so personal. So let’s look at a few foam and fleece theatre geeks and see what they can tell us about us.

Let’s start with Kermit the Frog. Realistic, helpful, always wants everyone to do well, and while he may not be the strongest actor, he unofficially leads the ensemble, plans rehearsals and Italian runs, offers to help other actors with their lines and organizes social events. Kermit is the consummate professional but he can get walked on if not careful, and that can cause burnout. So Kermits, draw some boundaries.

Miss Piggy. The textbook Diva, she cares about her craft, and she works hard to do well. She craves adoration, has a lot of passion (and maybe a fiery temper), and a big heart under all that seeming self importance. Deep down she’s not so sure of herself. She needs to learn to think before she speaks. But most of all, Miss Piggy needs to learn to love herself a little more and not push people away.

Fozzie Bear. This is a comic actor who simply loves what he does. He knows he’s not the perfect clown, but he has a heart of gold and he never stops trying. Fozzie is a lovable character who is always ready to perform, but he should probably take a class or two to improve his skills.

Animal. He’s the definition of 150% commitment to a role. Every time he knows his stuff. A serious veteran, Animal can totally lose himself in his art and become self indulgent on stage if he’s not careful, and that is not a good thing. Remembering that he is a performer first will help him from getting lost in the moment.

Gonzo the Stunt Man. Gonzo gives it his all and he takes all his failures, bumps and bruises in stride. “The show must go on” is definitely his credo. A workhorse of the theatre, Gonzo is not afraid to take risks, for the reward of applause and approval. He can be a little eccentric and misunderstood by others, however, and he takes way too much pride in “being weird”. Could his drive to stand out from the crowd limit his ability to truthfully interpret a character?

Janice. She’s chill, man. She’s there for the good vibes, the community connection, and the love of theatre. Nothing really upsets a Janice, and “it’s all good” is her mantra. She’s not the hardest worker, she may be late or she may even forget a rehearsal because she didn’t check the schedule, and she may decide that something is more important on that day. But she loves the artistic expression and collaboration. In some ways, Janice is like a closet diva, in that she really is in it for herself and does just enough so that she can get by so that she can continue to do what she wants.

Scooter: organized, reliable, ambitious, detail oriented, long-suffering…a stage manager, basically, and not really an actor. But he will get up on stage if it’s necessary to pitch in and make the show a success. Every community theatre has one. As an actor, Scooter can suffer from analysis paralysis: too organized, too much character analysis, and maybe too free with their opinions on what other actors (and sometimes even directors) should do.

Beaker: quiet, shy, but still waters run deep. This is an actor who can really surprise you. Beaker has a lot to offer and can really move an audience if allowed the time and space to shine. The problem is that he doesn’t say much, and directors may not know if he is struggling or doesn’t understand something, and that might be Beaker’s biggest pitfall. If he doesn’t find a way to ask for clarification or tell someone when he’s having a hard go of it, he just becomes frustrated, and all the learning, potential and creativity stops.

Statler and Waldorf: these are the ultimate critics, they have a lot to say and it’s mostly negative. They can be lazy and are often in the restroom when others are pitching in to do something strenuous (like moving furniture or striking a set). Witty and entertaining, they are frequently right with their concerns, but their delivery can cause a lot of friction. Not many people will put up with a Waldorf for long.

Hopefully you can find one or two of these beloved characters to relate to. They can get you thinking about your own abilities and pitfalls, and about how other people may view you. For instance, if you just want to have fun and aren’t really all that serious about it…sort of Janice leaning, in other words….you’ll be thought of fondly for your energy and fun-loving nature, but you might not be taken seriously as an actor.

If you’re all about your passion and the work, like Animal, but you don’t really have much self-control or awareness of the people (and sound, lights, props, blocking, exits, etc.) around you, you are unlikely to get cast very often.

If you are constantly telling the director “my character wouldn’t do that” or complaining about your costumes or telling other actors how to do their jobs, like Statler or Waldorf, no one will want to work with you, even if everything you say is right on the money.

On the other hand, if you show up on time, ready to go, if you do your homework and learn your lines, if you take blocking and directing notes, if you are supportive and kind to your fellow artists––whether that’s being quiet and attentive when actors are rehearsing, or thanking your director for their notes, or being respectful and grateful for your technicians––and if you are being a good team player, then you have a professional attitude, whether you’re getting paid or not. And if you can manage a positive, fun energy and attitude on top of that professional attitude, then you’re going to be a person everyone wants to work with.

Because what really matters, in the end, is how you conduct yourself in auditions, rehearsals and performance. So go for a little more Kermit and a little less Miss Piggy, and see how people respond.

Until next time, I’m Barbra French, and thanks for listening.

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