Ensemble: all the parts

We had our first audience for Bourbon at the Border last week – the cast visited a GED class at the Howard Area Community Center that was reading the script in class. We performed Act one, Scene three (the students had read scenes one and two at that point) and had a great discussion about the play and the process.

Bourbon at the Border by Pearl CleageOne of the most interesting questions to come up was about the concept of an ensemble. It was a word we were tossing around a lot as we discussed the relationship the cast has built and the year-long relationship Eclipse has with our playwright.

As we were using the word “ensemble” to define both the actors in the play and the artists in Eclipse Theatre Company, a student noticed that we were not only talking about different groups of people, but different concepts of what an “ensemble” is.

I think most people probably think of an ensemble as a group of actors who aren’t the leading roles (or a cast in a show that doesn’t have any leading roles – most awards ceremonies now include a “Best Ensemble” category). That makes Bourbon at the Border an ensemble cast – all four roles are strong and well-balanced.

This group of actors talked about an ensemble as something more than that, though – a group of actors who connect with one another, who trust one another, and who challenge one another. Not every cast becomes an “ensemble” in this sense, and you can feel the difference when it happens.

This is what makes the Eclipse artists an ensemble as well – although we’re not a cast working on a specific show, we are a group of artists who have connected with one another and with the project we’ve decided to commit ourselves to – annual explorations of great playwrights.

Of all the definitions of “ensemble” I was able to find, I like the first one the best:

1.all the parts of a thing taken together, so that each part is considered only in relation to the whole.

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