“Even if we did everything exactly the same, it would still be different. Not only because we have Bill and Kevin, but because you’ve changed from where you were and where your hearts were a few years ago.”–Kevin Lawler
Thus marks the beginning of a brand new tale of theatre. Nearly five months have passed since Leaving Iowa (The Miracle Show) and this marks my first foray into theatre since that time. However, this time around I am not acting.
“Why?”, I can hear my readers ask.
The simple truth is that I had an engagement in October and have another in December and the precise placement of those engagements made me unable to take any acting gigs until 2014. Needless to say, I didn’t want to wait that long between auditions and lose the strength of my acting chops. So when I found out the Blue Barn would be remounting Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol this year, I contacted Kevin and asked if he could use me as a consulting thespian for the show.
What’s a consulting thespian? Essentially, I come in early to help actors run their lines, run them when they’re not needed on stage, and substitute for them if they cannot be at rehearsal so the others performers don’t lose anything in the absence. It’s also a great way for me to keep my own skills sharp and honed for that next audition and it lets me be involved.
So I’ve decided to bring you along on my journey and view the creation of a show. Marley will be a very different beast due to the compressed amount of time we have in getting it ready. Tonight was the first rehearsal and the show will open in just 4 weeks. Fortunately, the show was pre-cast with 4 superior actors (Nils Haaland, Kevin Barratt, Bill Grennan, and Scott Working) who have had the benefit of studying a script for the last month or so. This was crucial as their first assignment was to be off book by tonight because the acting needed to begin right away.
This show is unlike any I have ever been involved with before. It has a very mysterious, ethereal quality to it. There will be very little in the way of set and costumes. What we have is a play that very much relies on the actors’ abilities to paint pictures with words. They’re going to need to infect the audience with their imagination, so the audience will be able to “see” the events, characters, and props. It’s almost like pantomime with the benefit of speech.
A good way to describe my previous sentence is by telling you about some of the discoveries Nils (who plays Jacob Marley) made tonight. When Marley arrives in hell and receives his sentence from the Record Keeper (Scott Working), he has a monologue about how chains suddenly appeared on his wrists, ankles, and neck. Nils twisted and shifted his body as he described the manifestation of these chains and through that beautiful combination of physicality and description, I could “see” the chains on him and even make note of the ledgers, cashboxes, and locks engulfing his body.
Another discovery Nils made was when the Record Keeper blows Marley into the abyss. As Nils twirled and whirled on stage, he spoke of Marley “howling in anguish” and he made the word “howling” an actual howl. It sent chills down my spine and really made me believe in the suffering and torment of Marley.
I think Bill, who is appearing in his 4th straight Blue Barn Christmas show, hit the nail on the head when he said, “The last Christmas shows I’ve done have either been far out and wacky or internal and in my head. This show has none of that.” Or perhaps it is all of that. It depends on one’s point of view.
Shortly before rehearsal wrapped for the night, Kevin made the statement that I quoted at the opening of this tale. And it got me thinking about my own journey in theatre. My heart and mind are definitely in a different place than they were a year ago at this time. I now enjoy the peace of mind that Leaving Iowa has brought me and that, of course, will influence my own future endeavors in theatre. I’m not the man I was and even now I know I will be approaching and viewing this play very differently than I did several years ago due to those changes and events I’ve undergone in recent years.
And that is an adventure of its own.