Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Act One? Blocking Done!

I had forgotten how rather shot Act I of this version of A Christmas Carol is. I know it seems a little shorter to me than it really is because there is a whole scene at the start of this version in which only two people appear. That scene isn't usually rehearsed with everyone else present, so naturally the first act is going to seem somewhat short. that notwithstanding I still think it will take less time to get through than most first halves. It's just the broad strokes but its there.

To that end, after just two evenings, we have totally blocked the first half already. We even had a rudimentary set tonight, (though a platform had been installed in an incorrect place and has to be moved.)

I play Frederick in the first scene, younger brother of Charles Dickens. His real life story is actually quite a depressing one, so I won't be drawing on much of that. I'll see what I can glean from the facts of his life before his tragic final years. (Which is appropriate for the time period of this play anyway.) I also play Fred, and younger Scrooge in Act One.

These are interesting characters to play in their own right, but I find it interesting to play them both in the same production. I'd like to find some affectations that are common between the two. To play on the irony of some aspect of the two men being, at least at some point in time, very much alike. There is a complexity to both characters, (especially Fred) which often tends to be glossed by stereotypes, decorations, music, and overall holiday exuberance in most productions. One of my main goals is to avoid that shallow presentation of these beloved characters to which nearly every person has been exposed at some point in time. Especially if they celebrate Christmas.

This is also what I tried to do during the first time I was in this play. I succeeded to some extent, but there were many distractions in that production, so I did slip into affectation a few times as opposed to deep acting. But now, as then, I think it is important to remember that although Fred, Scrooge, the Ghosts, Cratchit and all the rest are household names and concepts today, they were in fact literary inventions of a genius initially. Like Shakespearean characters, the true depth and power of these characters cannot be forgotten simply because they would up rewriting everything we feel about Christmas today. They must be kept as human. (or as Spirits as the case may be.) The temptation to put up cardboard cut-outs of these well known characters must be resisted.

Fred, as I said, requires specific attention in this regard. My hope is to play Fred as a very, though realistically joyful soul. A man who is not simply a cartoon happy, but who acquires his happiness from a deeply held faith in both God, Christmas, and people. Not naivete, but persistent commitment to the better angels of everyone's nature. He may not always find them, but he is always willing to look. Especially with his uncle. In my view, without such a commitment, an actor is basically just playing a guy that is half doped up on something when he enters Scrooge and Marley's every year.

That won't be without its challenges because I as a person am not like that. But my aspiration to be more like that is something I plan to tap into as I build my version of the character.

Perhaps that is the same sort of thing that should be drawn upon to play Young Scrooge. A deep spirit that, unlike Fred's, becomes turned at some point. Corrupted. Perhaps that first taste of the equalization he can bring to his life with money in the right places? Or maybe something else happened. He didn't just wake up one day and decide he was a bastard. And despite the brevity of that character's appearance (the younger one remember), I want to have plenty going on inwardly to back up every moment.

And I'll have to explore the whole gamut within just a few minutes. "Good Ebenezer" becomes "Mean Ebenezer" during a cross fade in the lights of a scene, indicating time passing. If I have those motivations in me, it will hopefully be more convincing when that change comes. (One other challenge; the "Good" version of him has no lines. It will all be through physical cues in his interaction with friends, and especially with his love, Belle. It will help that I have worked with the actress playing Belle before.) I have the chance for several potent moments with that actress and her character.

Tomorrow we review act one's blocking, with more emphasis on details and nuance of performances. Though I wouldn't dare put my book down yet, I am already about halfway towards being off book for the act. The deadline for that will be no problem for me. More of my lines, (and indeed some confusing ones) appear in the second half.

But that's the realm of the Ghost of Rehearsals Yet to Come.

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