Amateur operatic people


Having been involved with quite a number of amateur and semi-professional shows now, certain patterns in the make-up of each group have become evident.  Whether a Society that has been running since Victorian times, or a group pulled together for one specific production, there are people who seem to manifest themselves in every situation.  Perhaps we are all avatars of some peculiar theatrical pantheon?  I don’t know, but I’d like to introduce you to them.

The Veteran has been performing for decades, and has seen it all before.  There are two aspects of the Veteran – the Encourager and the Doomsayer.  The Encourager offers a helping hand and a shoulder to cry on for newer performers, giving them advice, listening to their concerns and praising them when they get things right.  The Doomsayer still lives in the ‘good old days’, and sees no merit in new technology, new ways of working, new shows or anything else that might hint at change.  ‘That’s not how we did it in 1974’ is a typical utterance.  Sometimes an active member, but generally someone on the sidelines who would never volunteer for the committee, audition for a lead role, or even make the tea.

The Cherrypicker exists only for principal roles, and floats from group to group as necessary.  They will be members of multiple groups, and will turn up to any open audition going (sometimes travelling many miles to audition for a part they particularly covet), but will disappear immediately if they don’t get the role they are looking for.  Often extremely talented and sometimes remarkably self-effacing, they are much needed, but can get up the noses of loyal group members who feel that their chances are ruined by the floaters.  Rent-a-star. 

The Swot picks up lyrics, lines and choreography at a super-human rate, and seems to spend every minute of their waking life working towards the show.  Will often be found demonstrating the finale tap routine during a coffee break, or going over the second soprano harmony with someone who just can’t crack it.  They know the show backwards and forwards,  inside-out and upside-down.  They can tell you how many minutes you have until your next entrance, in addition to which side of the stage you need and whether you should have any props with you.  Infuriating, but jolly handy.

The Clueless One is very sweet, but has an incredible tendency to get things wrong.  They come in a bar too early even if the conductor is standing right in front of them, they sway to the left when everyone else sways to the right, they react to the action a fraction of a second after everyone else, and they can’t work out how to hold their props still.  In all likelihood they have a fantastic voice, and they normally get there by opening night, but they cause everyone else endless worry before that point.

The Natural may be in a very small part, or buried at the back line of the chorus, but they just shine.  Their movements are spot on, they maintain character under the greatest duress, and they exude enthusiasm.  They make it all look easy, and they’re often completely unaware that the rest of us are deeply jealous of them.

The Stalwart is the backbone of the group.  They may not be the most talented, they may never get a starring role and you may forget that they even exist.  But they never miss a rehearsal, they always learn their moves, words and harmonies by the deadline and they never grumble.  You know that they’ll help with those little tasks that keep everything working and they never seek recognition.  They deserve a big hug.

There are of course many others who take part in the strange world of amateur dramatics or operatics, but these are the essential archetypes.  I’d like to think that the Singing Librarian is unique, but I certainly have Swot tendencies.  My most important theatrical goal is to avoid becoming the Veteran Doomsayer at all costs.  Theatre can be many things, but above all it should be fun.

  1. Hee hee, I would agree with your assessment of your ‘type’! Tap-dancing in coffee breaks struck a particular chord – although I think you may have meant coffee breaks in rehearsals rather than in the L of D. If I was in AO, I know what I would be, but I will leave you to form your own opinion. (Rather unfair of me, as it would be based on quite scant evidence!). You will never be a Veteran Doomsayer, fear not – you love it too much.

  2. Ah, but I might end up loving ‘the way we did things in the noughties’ by the time we reach the 2030s!

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