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What is a principle?

Printed From: Community Theater Green Room
Category: Producing Theater
Forum Name: Acting
Forum Discription: Q&A about auditions, character development and other aspects of the craft
Printed Date: 5/18/24 at 9:20pm
Software Version: Web Wiz Forums 8.05 -

Topic: What is a principle?
Posted By: TheActingTechie
Subject: What is a principle?
Date Posted: 7/29/06 at 9:47pm
I was looking at the thread about what a lead is, and it sparked another question in my mind.  What makes a principle character?  Where does a character go from being a big feature to a small principle?  Is it the number of lines?  If it is a musical, the amount they sing?  The amount of time they spend on stage?  What?

The two parts I have most recently played both walk along that line, and I was wondering what you thought:

Potiphar in Joseph...*

Big Jule in Guys and Dolls

*Joseph is a musical that's arrangement is often reworked from its original state.  In our production the song "Potiphar" was sung with Potiphar taking some solos, Mrs. Potiphar taking some and a small chorus taking some.  The narrator actually sang very little by herself (the song is intended to be sung almost entirely by the narrator and a chorus).

Was I playing two featured roles, two principle roles or somewhere in between?

If you don't know about those specific plays or parts, feel free to simply give your opinion on what makes a principle!

Posted By: castMe
Date Posted: 7/29/06 at 11:39pm
OK, this is off the top of my head, but here goes. 

In Joseph, the narrator is the only lead with the brothers as the featured roles.  The others that sing are mostly supporting since they generally appear in only one scene.

Nathan, Adelade, Sarah and Sky are the leads with the other singing soloists as supporting except for Nicely-Nicely (thank you) who is featured.  Nicely is not a lead since no part of the plot involves him. Big Julie is a small featured role unless you get huge applause in which case my own ego would make me think I'm Featured.

Typically I think of the soloist in a musical as featured (except for leads) unless one or two characters are what I consider "second bananas", the comedians. They are also featured. 

I guess the featured roles are the non-leads with many scenes or multiply songs. 

Remember.....there are no small roles....merely small minded directors who don't give me the lead.

Investigate. Imagine. Choose.

Posted By: TheActingTechie
Date Posted: 7/30/06 at 12:05am
You think that in "Joseph" the character of Joseph is not a lead?

But beyond that...

I think we are using a bit different terminology here.  I categorize it like this, going from smallest to largest part (though I know, there are no small parts)


What I think you are getting at is that you order it like this:


Is this correct?


Posted By: castMe
Date Posted: 7/30/06 at 12:11am
You might be closer with your order and probably supporting and featured are one and the same. 

As for Joseph. I've only seen the show twice but my memory is the narrator singing more then Joe.  If this is true then I would say Joseph is a second lead or main principle.

I told you this was off the top of my head

Investigate. Imagine. Choose.

Posted By: TheActingTechie
Date Posted: 7/30/06 at 12:26am
Well while the Narrator does sing more than Joseph, the plot revolves entirely around Joseph, and the narrator simply helps transition from scene to scene.  She never has a song that she performs alone, but is in every virtually every number.  I think it is the type of thing where Joseph is almost the token lead role.  It's the same sort of thing as "Oliver!"  The person who sings the most is Fagin, but do you think he is the last to bow?  Of course not.  They are tital characters that, while singing slightly less, have the lions share of the plotline and audience attention.

What I think is that is in "Dreamcoat" both Joseph and the Narrator are leads, Reuben, Pharoah, Mr and Mrs Potiphar and Jacob are Principles, and the brothers are featured ensemble.


Posted By: theaterbrat
Date Posted: 7/30/06 at 10:52pm
Originally posted by TheActingTechie

and the narrator simply helps
transition from scene to scene.? She never has a song that she
performs alone, but is in every virtually every number.?

Doesn't she sing Prolouge and Pharoh Story by herself?

Posted By: TheActingTechie
Date Posted: 7/31/06 at 3:23pm
Your right, my bad, she does sing the Prologue, but that is not a large piece, and doesnt do anything to further the story.  It is kind of like a buffer for the real opening number, Jacob and Sons.

Pharoah Story has the ensemble in it.


Posted By: POB14
Date Posted: 8/01/06 at 9:50am

This question comes up occasionally, and I always wonder:  why do you care?  If we call Big Jule a principal, does that make it a better role?

Equity's - LORT contract says anything that isn't chorus is a principal.

The - Tony rules  essentially say a leading role is whatever they say it is.

I say:  If it's on my resume, it's a lead.  If it's on your resume, it's featured.  If it's on somebody else's resume, it's supporting. 

Old Bugger, Curmudgeon, and Antisocial B**tard

Posted By: TheActingTechie
Date Posted: 8/01/06 at 6:41pm
I actually wasn't even trying to have this be a discussion about Big Jule or Potiphar.  I just thought it would be an interesting dicussion that might actually have more opinions than the "What is a lead" one.  I would be very happy if you replied using examples not from Joseph or Guys and Dolls, those were just two that I thought might get the ball rolling. 


Posted By: castMe
Date Posted: 8/01/06 at 7:52pm

Investigate. Imagine. Choose.

Posted By: Topper
Date Posted: 8/01/06 at 9:34pm

Simple rules of thumb for definition purposes:

If you read the script and say "I'll never remember all these #$%&@ lines!"  It's a LEAD.

If you read the script and say "I've got some great #$%&@ lines to say!"  It's FEATURED.

If you read the script and say "#$%&@!  Are these the only lines I've got?"  It's SUPPORTING.

If you're not given a script and told to STAND in a line, it's CHORUS.



"None of us really grow up. All we ever do is learn how to behave in public." -- Keith Johnstone

Posted By: TheActingTechie
Date Posted: 8/15/06 at 12:20am
Ha, thats actually a very accurate list there, I hadn't really thought of it that way.


Posted By: red diva
Date Posted: 9/27/06 at 4:13pm
Topper, that is the best definition of those terms that I've ever seen!  Funny, but also quite accurate!

"I've worked long and hard to earn the right to be called Diva!"

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