Saturday, November 26, 2016

Topping Things Off

Our final non-tech week rehearsal was tonight. Difficult to believe we are there already, but I have to remind myself that we only had four weeks total for this show in the first place.

There's some work to do next week. It's a bit rough in places, though not as rough as it was on Wednesday night, during our previous rehearsal. (Though we had someone missing for each of the last two rehearsals.)

I myself made two or three errors. One or two others times I choked a bit on lines, but improved my way through to the right cues. But the rough spots for me personally are specific enough that focused review between now and Monday should be enough to fix things up.

My character with the fewest lines is Topper, who is a guest at Fred's (Scrooge's nephew) party during the shadows of Christmas Present. He is mentioned in the original book, and often, but not always shows up for a throw away line or two in most stage versions of the tale. I have played him in more than one version, myself, including this one. There's always a word game of some kind involved in the scene. I actually have less to say in this show than I have in previous incarnations of Topper, but I enjoy the scene nonetheless.

In fact, the scene for me was a highlight of tonight's rehearsal in some ways. I work hard of course on Cratchit, and I like bringing something a bit new to the Ghost of Christmas Past, (the director is pleased with my take), but that tiny scene with Topper and his few lines just felt so natural tonight, (other than one actress being absent today.)

I get to play around with Topper, and, as I have before in other shows, make him a bit rogue-like , though mostly harmless. I described him tonight as a "watered down Lord Byron." Probably a bit drunk in the scene. Probably a bit drunk all the time...but not useless. I feel I play off of the actor playing Fred quite well in my brief few lines, which I play up for all they are worth (and perhaps more). I don't think I'm scene chewing. I hope I'm not. But the whole short scene feels alive with character and relationship, even though everyone but Fred is a minor, one-off presence in the show.

That's the stage for you. Sometimes it is the smaller roles that allow a bit more freedom. With more freedom comes more creativity, and more creativity brings life to a role, and makes it one the audience will remember. That is of course the goal of all of my parts, and I don't for a minute mean to suggest that I lack freedom in my other roles. I have plenty. But there is more weight to Cratchit. People come to see any version of this show with a keen sense of watching Cratchit. That's partially true with Christmas Past as well. But someone like Topper, who in many ways is just there, for whom the audience generally lacks expectations, the process can feel much more natural in much less time.

If Topper were a main character would I feel the same way? I might, if I could play him like this. But because of the brevity of his presence, I can try things, (which the director allows) that I might not otherwise be able to try, if he were a main character. Things that may or may not wear thin in a greater quantity than are present now. I have some more work to do with Cratchit in the final week, and to a lesser extent Christmas Past. But I could perform Topper as is tomorrow if I had to.

Remember, that's acting too. It's all acting. If we ignore the smaller moments, we might as well ignore the larger, because you can never be sure what moment might speak to you as an actor, or to the audience. Not every line of every role you have will be a gem, but always go for it.

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