Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's the little things

I used to perform in school and community theatre groups, and while I hope to get back to it one day, haven't been cast in anything since leaving high school for college. This is, I have no doubt, due largely to my size. I'm a fat soprano, which leaves me surprisingly few parts for how relatively rare the soprano 1 voice is.

The way it works is, the soprano part in most modern musicals is given to an ingenue character - the pretty (thus, thin) innocent girl who tends to get the largest part in the show, unless there is also a leading lady in the cast. A lot of modern musicals that use more rock-style music give their ingenue a mezzo-soprano voice instead, slightly lower than my range and more geared toward belting. Examples: Cosette in Les Miserables; Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera; Joanna in Sweeney Todd; Kim in Bye Bye Birdie. These are the parts that I can sing, but don't look like.

There are the Leading Lady parts, which, at 21, I'm too young to be considered for, and in all likelihood too fat for anyway. These women carry the show, and tend to have a middle-range voice, often with a lot of belting. It's hard to describe too many of them, as they vary. But examples: Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd; The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods;  Norma in Sunset  Boulevard; Rosie in Bye Bye Birdie

There are then enough roles that are suitable enough to be played by a fat actress, although mostly this is if the casting director doesn't have enough thin ones. Those known as character parts can be fatter; and character parts tend to be comic relief, and if not mezzo-soprano then alto. They're also more likely to be male parts, which doesn't help me, although some male parts are simple enough to transpose onto a female actor. Examples: Ursula in Bye Bye Birdie; Nicely-Nicely Johnson in Guys and Dolls. These latter two categories are parts that I might look like, but can't sing.

I've also been wanting a lot lately to learn how to dance. I've watched a fair bit of ballet, and I've been getting decent enough at yoga to know that it's fun to move my body that way and to feel graceful, and the idea of dancing with a partner and flitting across a stage is magically fun. The trouble is, I'm not longer a 6-year-old girl. And I'm really afraid that there might not be any chance for me to take real dance classes - not just a casual swing or ballroom just-for-laughs kind of class -without being unwelcome for my weight. Ballet in particular but dance in general isn't known to be very friendly to the fat.

It sucks that no one will cast me in roles that I can sing, and it sucks that I don't know if I'd be able to learn something fun without being shamed and driven away. These are hardly the biggest problems facing the fat acceptance movement, but they're little things that add up for individual fat girls.


  1. I don't know if Terry Pratchett is your style, but reading your description of this problem, I was reminded of this book: http://www.harpercollins.com/features/pratchettbooks/description.aspx?isbn=9780061056918

  2. I haven't read much Pratchett, but I did actually read that one. I enjoyed it a lot, that one and Good Omens (I'm more of a Neil Gaiman person). I don't remember very much, but the juxtaposition of the traditional pretty Christine and the less-lovely, more talented protagonist definitely stuck in my memory.