Thursday, November 06, 2008

It Ain't All Candy Canes

If you know the story of "A Christmas Carol", (and I am willing to assume that you do), you know that despite over a century and a half of re-tellings, newer versions, adaptations, movies, stage renditions, and overall sublimation into the consciousness of holiday season jollity, the story is, in the end, rife with both political and tragic, sometimes scary moments.

Given that I am portraying, among other things, Bob Cratchit in this version, one of those moments is the portrayal of a poverty stricken father who has losses his chronically ill youngest child.

It is not a light moment, by any means, and I do not for a moment take it lightly. Respect for the story, and for theatre itself would not allow me to do so. Because of that commitment, I think perhaps the scene from Christmas Future, wherein Cratchit mourns said loss, might be one of my more difficult moments to perfect.

Last night we went over the blocking for it, and I had not performed the scene since the initial read through a few weeks ago. Because I do not believe in holding one's intensity in reserve until later rehearsals, I did my best to go all out for it. I think it is effective, but has a ways to go.

I do feel that intensity when I do the scene. The key to it, as is the key to so many scenes wherein someone breaks down, is to strive to invoke a man who wants to maintain composure, as opposed to invoking the break down itself. Doing the latter, i feel, tends to lead to less realistic moments.

Not to mention the fact that I see Cratchit as the ultimate, humble servant of God and Christ. Accepting what the Lord has given him, not questioning how little he has. Being a symbol and source of joy, even despite his poverty. In the very depths of his want, h is able to raise a glass to his horrible employer, Scrooge, and even encouraging his family to find pity for the man.

By the time we see him mourning his son, (albeit it in an unreal, shadow future), I see him as finally getting to the point where, at least for the moment, he has no reserve with which o handle the situation. The loss of Tim is a final rock bottom moment for a man who has essentially refused to accept rock bottom moments.

Whether or not Cratchit eventually heals and returns to his happier ways is beyond the scope of our telling of the story. The vision ends at the break down moment. Yet for my part, I feel he probably does recover eventually, even from this. That is the nature of what Bob Cratchit is. So there is hope, if that matters, from this actor's perspective on the character. The main purpose, however, is to invoke that lowest moment in the man's history. Even if that history does not truly exist once Scrooge changes the future.

Some people feel the most vulnerable during sexual scenes. Some feel so when they are singing. I feel at the moment, among my most vulnerable in portraying such a horrible moment in this good man's life. My challenge will be not so much to give a good performance in that moment, (though I intend to of course), but to play through that feeling of vulnerability while I perform it. When I achieve that higher level of comfort, and feel a bit less vulnerable, the performance will follow.

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