"Are We All Met?"
-A Midsummer Night's Dream III, i
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December 22, 2011 - 1 comment(s)
I took over the role of the Ghost of Jacob Marley upon the great John Buck’s decision to retire in 2004. How I got the role was far from auspicious: Dudley Swetland, Scrooge at the time, approached me on the first day of rehearsal of The Taming of the Shrew earlier that year and said, “Buck retired. I think you should do it next.”
I was 26 years old in 2004. I was a year out of graduate school. However all my hair had fallen out around the age of 22, so I could pass for older, and I’d played “old men” most of my still very young career. I felt I could pull it off with a little make-up magic and vocal effects. I had only been in A Christmas Carol once before: the year prior which was to be John Buck’s last go ‘round. He was very sweet, very professional, though I didn’t pay much attention to the details of how he went about creating his performance. I found that to be a blessing, freeing me up so I could put my own personal stamp on the role; how mine could be different. Later I would discover what a waste of time that would be, as I was already different from Mr. Buck so logically my performance would naturally be different.
But John was very helpful as I took over the role, coming in to show me the ropes, as it were, teaching me the movements, how he threw the chains around, troubleshooting the long coat, and giving me some insight into the reasons why he did what he did. Midway through our session, he stopped and noticed my dark brown beard that I had grown in an effort to stay true to the original design of the show. He regarded my face for a moment, and then touched his own silvery facial hair and said, “My beard was that color too, when I started.” Eight years in, and there are now three dozen or so white hairs doing their best to take over the whole colony of my once thoroughly brown beard. Alas, it would have happened anyway, and at this rate I won’t have to use hair whitener for very much longer. It’s harder to see the passage of time when you work on different plays, playing different roles. But coming back to the same role, the same performance, year after year, makes it much more present.
I had a moment during the performance the other night, as I was taking off my makeup, preparing for Act 2, where I thought about all of the things that I’d like to change, play differently or just re-examine. I realized that although I was playing the same character that I’ve always played, but I am a different man than the one who stepped into the role back in 2004. I’m interested in different things on stage, my way of expression is different…I’ve lived a bit more. I know this may be of little importance to folks coming to see the show: they just see Jacob Marley. But the constant work in any performance, whether you’re new to the role or if you’ve played it over a hundred and fifty times, is the fleshing out of a character, the imbuing of your own flesh and blood and feelings and thoughts to make a richer, deeper experience for the audience. I think that the more you bring yourself to the table, in service of a great story, to help the audience see that there are real human beings being presented on stage, or at the very least approximations of humans, the easier it is for them to see themselves.
Now to be perfectly honest, Jacob Marley is not a very demanding role. Yes it takes vocal and physical stamina to pull it off for the purposes of this production, but his scene is only 6 or 7 minutes long. The make-up application takes longer than the total stage time for the character. But it’s fun as hell to get in the costume and really transform into someone else. As most of us play multiple roles in the show, I take it as a point of pride that most people don’t know which of the dozen or so Londoners on stage also plays Marley.
I think to me, the real challenge of playing the role is that the “action” of the character is also the “action” of the actor. The look, the vocal effects, the entrance, all of the effects are designed to scare the audience, just as the appearance of the ghost must scare Scrooge. But once that is established, both Marley and the actor must terrify with their words. Marley’s regret for the way he lived his life and his description of what has happened to him is a cautionary tale for the audience, as well Scrooge. That, to me, is the reason why I look forward to coming back to this play year after year.
-Lynn Robert Berg
Ten Seasons at Great Lakes Theater
(Lynn is one of only three actors to play the role of Jacob Marley in Great Lakes Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol over the past 23 years.)
December 19, 2011 - leave a comment
On the tenth day of (a) Christmas (carol)....
Every year the cast and crew participate in a week-long game of Secret Santa! For one week during the run, presents are hidden all over the backstage of the Ohio Theatre (dressing rooms, green room, hallways... you name it!) This GLT tradition really brings a sense of holiday excitement to the theatre!
After 5 days of small gifts - everyone brings in one special final present for the reveal of Secret Santa! This year out of 33 participants, only 4 people guessed their Secret Santa correctly! Our cast and crew are pretty sneaky....
December 18, 2011 - 2 comment(s)
On the ninth day of (a) Christmas (carol)…
Q&A with Actress, Laura Perrotta:
Q: What is your favorite part about being in Great Lakes Theater's production of A Christmas Carol?
A: A Christmas Carol brings a sense of family more than anything else at Great Lakes. It always feels like a homecoming. I love the sense of tradition and how people are connected through the production.
Q: After performing the same role of “Mother Cleaveland” for 11 years, how do you keep it fresh and new?
A: It’s always a challenge as an actress to keep things new. But, every year there is something new and different about the show. With different stagers and new cast members each season, there is a different angle and a different way to look at the same story. I love the story A Christmas Carol and the adaptation by Gerald Freedman.
I also love that so many students get to see the show during the student matinee performances. The Great Lakes Theater education program is so important and especially with A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens has a very direct impact on our world. I love telling the story during every show and communicating its message...that transformation is always a possibility. It is never too late to change or for doors to open. A Christmas Carol has a timeless message.
Q: What is your favorite family tradition during the Christmas Season?
A: My husband, Donald, and I open our gifts to each other on Christmas Eve. Christmas day is all about our kids. That’s the way it has been for 25 years.
Q: What plays are on your “wish list” to perform in?
A: Royal Family, Anthony and Cleopatra, Sunset Boulevard...and anything by Noel Coward.
Q: What is your favorite thing about living in Cleveland?
A: I have lived in Cleveland for 17 years. My husband is from Cleveland and it’s nice to be close to family. I love all the great restaurants, the metroparks...no traffic...and I feel very connected to the community. One of my favorite places this time of year is the Holden Arboretum!
December 05, 2011 - 1 comment(s)
On the seventh day of (A) Christmas (Carol)….
We chatted with the cast and crew!
We went backstage and asked the cast and crew of our 23rd annual production of A Christmas Carol about their favorite part of the show. The answers are priceless. Enjoy!
November 29, 2011 - leave a comment
On the fifth day of (a) Christmas (carol)...
After 9 days in the rehearsal hall, it is time to move into the Ohio Theatre for technical rehearsals. The cast and crew came together over Thanksgiving weekend, for two 10 out of 12 days (meaning: 10 hours of rehearsal in a 12 hour day). Backstage, 19 members of the Great Lakes Theater run and wardrobe crews work together to make A Christmas Carol magical! The team incorporates all of the technical elements including trap doors, a flying clock, fog, snow, light up costumes and ‘Christmas Cheer’!
Production Stage Manager, Corrie Purdum, and Assistant Stage Manager, Tim Kinzel, give the GO for 255 light and sound cues and an additional 100 cues for scene changes/special effects during every performance!