Happy holidays to the Geva family! It’s been a little while since I’ve shared my experiences of the sounds that float out of the rehearsal hall and into the reception area with you all. As you can imagine, having Lester Purry, the single actor in Thurgood, rehearsing up here was a decidedly calmer and quieter experience than usual. In fact, once he began full runs of the show, I barely heard a word. The one moment that I would consistently catch wind of was towards the end of the show. It was Thurgood Marshall screaming “Where?! Where?! Wheeeere?!” As someone who was unfamiliar with the script, I would always wonder “What terrible crisis of faith is this giant of a man experiencing?” Those of you who saw the incredible production will know how humorous this assumption of mine really was.
It will come as no surprise that overhearing rehearsals of the Geva production of A Christmas Carol is an absolute joy. The main themes of my overheard experience this past few weeks would best be described as festive singing, excitable cockney accents, and a healthy portion of ghostly wailing accompanied by terrified screams. It’s been lively for sure.
Probably the best thing about A Christmas Carol rehearsals is that they rarely stay fully contained in the rehearsal hall. The cast is large as it is, and there are two teams of child actors for the children’s parts. It’s just impossible to fit that many people in the rehearsal room and still have space to move around and execute the scenes. Therefore many cast members can be found in the Geva staff kitchen, the library, or just seated in various chairs they can find while running lines, snacking, working on crossword puzzles, etc. I’m told that even the reception desk itself becomes the roost for the show’s talented fiddler once I leave for the day. Everyone is just looking for a little room to do their work.
It was this crowded arrangement that enabled to me to overhear one of my favorite cast conversations of all time. Last week the two little girls playing the Ghost of Christmas Past (again, all children’s roles are shared) were sitting near my desk running their lines. Each would take turns practicing their lines while the other read Scrooge’s lines. As the Dickensian work is performed in British dialects, they were also coaching each other on their accents. While I was not intending to eavesdrop, bits and pieces of the conversation made it clear that the spirit of collaboration was so pure and wholesome between these young actors.
“How do you say ‘ghost’ like that? What shape is your mouth?”
“Is it ChristMASS or ChristMUSS?”
“That was so good how you did that! That was my favorite.”
“Ooh, you sound like a grown-up in British.”
Later when they remembered that the Ghost of Christmas past gently flutters her arms throughout all of her scenes—a choice to draw attention to the fact that she is levitating—they fell into a fit of giggles as one actor stood and attempted her best flutter.
The other brandished the script in her hands. “Come on!” she urged, “You gotta remember while flapping your arms!” She jumped up excitedly. “What’s your line? What’s your line? What’s your line?”
I do not know if the young lady in question knew her lines while flapping, because I became preoccupied with keeping myself from laughing out loud with glee at their dedication.
As their one-on-one impromptu rehearsal went on and my smile grew ever more conspicuous, I couldn’t resist turning to tell them that I thought they were doing a great job. “Also you should both definitely audition for Scrooge when you get older,” I added, “You’re nailing his lines.” They both giggled and blushed, seemingly tickled that an adult had taken any interest in their attempt to fight off nervousness with a little practice.
Soon they were called back into the rehearsal hall to resume scene work with the rest of the cast.
“We’re pretty well solid,” the one said as they gathered up their binders and water bottles.
“Yeah,” her counterpart replied, “I just need to work on my cues now.”
The other girl sighed dramatically. “Oh my gosh I know…”
I was amused, amazed, and somewhat overwhelmed by the exchange I had witnessed. These little people were just actors. Yes, they may have been worried about homework instead of day jobs and crushes instead of industry politics, but they were here to do the work just like any adult. Their determination to be excellent was admirable, but more striking was their determination to help each other be excellent. There was no sense of competition between them like I might have expected among children—in fact, like I often see among adult actors. In a way, these two professionals had unintentionally embodied for me the Christmas spirit. Their charitable hearts, genuine goodwill for each other, and sense of childlike wonder inspired me. I found myself wishing only the most wonderful things and all the joy and success they could handle to these two tiny people I didn’t even really know.
In short, overhearing them work to be better Ghosts of Christmas Past made me want to work to be a better person.