Monday, December 6, 2010

'Christmas Carol' Memories

South Coast Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol is 31 this year—the same age as Charles Dickens when he wrote the beloved novel. After so many years, the actors and artists associated with the production have collected many memories. Here are a few:

Jerry Patch (Adaptor): I remember getting up at 4:30 a.m. in Huntington Beach during the summer of 1980 to write the adaptation SCR first presented that Christmas.  The sun was up early, blazing across my desk, while I tried to put myself in London in December.  It wasn’t that hard—Dickens overpowered life at the beach almost every morning.

John-David Keller and Martha McFarland.
John-David Keller (Director and Actor): Many of my favorite memories revolve around the children in the cast. I always insist that they not have their own dressing room but share with the adults, so they can really experience what it is like to be part of a production. Of course, the children are given instruction in rules of behavior that the adults are not. I remember one time asking a father about how his child was enjoying being a part of the show, and the father replied, “He’s having the time of his life, and his vocabulary has become quite colorful.”

Howard Shangraw and Hisa Takakuwa.
Speaking of which…

Hisa Takakuwa (Assistant Director, Former Actress: Sally/Toy Lady/Scavenger): One year the actress who played Mrs. Cratchit (who shall remain nameless) missed her first entrance with the Cratchit children. I was sitting next to her in the dressing room when she heard the entrance music and the voices of the Cratchit kids and realized she’d missed her entrance.

Let’s say she spouted some very colorful and un-Mrs. Cratchit like phrases and ran to get on stage.  The kids had to start the scene alone by improvising and did a fine and very professional job.  I doubt anyone in the audience even knew.  Later, the girl playing Belinda said, “No problem.  I loved saving the scene!”

Daniel Blinkoff, the Cratchit children and (far right) Jennifer Parsons and
Hal Landon Jr.
Daniel Blinkoff (Actor, Bob Cratchit): A few years ago, on Christmas Eve—our last show for that year—I’m waiting backstage for the scene where we glimpse into Tiny Tim’s future. I feel a tug on my sleeve, and it’s Tiny Tim. He says, “Don’t go on.” I ask him why, and he says, “If you go on, that means it will all be over soon.”

This was a kid with a lot of initial anxiety, but through the course of the production he really fell in love with the show and became a real actor. I went out on stage with the kids and we were all in tears. It was one of the most magical moments I’d ever felt as an actor, with these kids who just gave their heart and souls to this scene. The moment was amazing, with a sense of the fleeting, but what makes the job of an actor so special.

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