Monday, June 9, 2008

"Fat Parts" in Plays


Positions That Require Little Ability, Yet Always Secure Applause.

Rebellious Susan had said good night, and the audience was leaving the Lyceum theater, when a tall, slender, brown bearded man, who had witnessed the play critically, said to his companion:

"What good luck Kelcey has!"

"What do you mean?" asked his friend.

"Why, I mean that he is the lucky actor of that company. You probably don't understand, but if you had been on the stage, as I have, you would know that he has what actors call 'the fat part' — that is, he has a part which it is easy to fill and is sure to win applause. Of course he is very clever, but even a man of less ability could not avoid carrying off honors in that part. Everything he does carries with it the approval of the audience. That is due not nearly so much to the way in which he does it as to the action itself. He is the man who is constantly interfering to prevent others from making mistakes, and his success makes him the hero of the audience.

"Such a part almost plays itself. All that the actor has to do is to be calm, avoid breaks and remember his lines. A great many plays — in fact, most of them — have at least one such part, and the actor who gets it is always the object of his companions' envy. Such is Hawkshaw in 'The Ticket of Leave Man' and Sampson Brass in 'The Old Curiosity Shop.' I speak of those particularly because I have filled them myself and know how much I was envied by my fellows and how greatly out of proportion to the effort was the reward. It is awfully easy to appear at a critical moment and say, 'I am Hawkshaw, the detective,' and yet every time that was done the audience went wild with delight, and I knew that every heart was grateful to me and every eye was beaming kindly upon me. It is one of the easiest things in the world to express contrition and promise to be good in the future, and yet whoever plays Sampson Brass knows that every time he does this he wins the friendship of his audience and is the object of pity thereafter. On the stage, as in other callings, the rewards are not always earned. When you see a villain who wins the approbation of his audience, you can make up your mind that he is a pretty good actor. The hero may have very indifferent ability and yet win thunders of applause." — New York Sun.

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