So this pre-curtain speech given by a fellow actress recently drove me nuts, and here's why. Opening night of the play, she got up to thank everyone for their efforts. But that's not what happened.
To start, she referenced how putting on a theatrical production, is much like the body – each part has it's own unique function but together they total something much larger than their individual selves. It's cliché cause we've all heard it before, but she's not wrong.
She said thank you to the whole group, then this: "And I especially want to thank the crew. We wouldn't have a show if it weren't for you guys. Actors, you don't need us. We're replaceable. Anyone can memorize lines" (huh.) "You're what people really come to see."
Question. Can you have a play with no set? Ab-so-lutely. Have you ever seen a play with no actors? Cause if so, you might have the theatre confused with an art museum.
So why say it then? Was she just not thinking? Not likely, cause I've heard similar comments made before. (Read Extras are the Most Important Part of a Scene) These compliments attempt to make people feel important by elevating under recognized work over the work of those in the spotlight.
But it's not a good compliment, cause it's not true and people aren't stupid. So instead of making them feel good, they walk away feeling undervalued by a vague and insincere compliment. There are better ways to say "great work" and they don't involve downplaying or downright dismissing the talent of fellow team members.
Next time you need to thank a person or group for their work, try to put together a few sentences that actually speak to what they did that you appreciate. Something like this:
"And I'd like to take a second to thank the crew. You have created a beautiful world for us to live while we breath life into these characters. You make our job easier as you help us transport the audience into the world of these complex people. Thank you for creating the place for us to play."
I'd walk away feel pretty good if someone said that to me. I'm no expert, but I am an actor. Who can memorize lines.