Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Note on This Wonderful Life from Director Terry Cramer

Welcome to the quirky world of This Wonderful Life, where versatile actor Ed Christian plays a guy who wants to tell us the entire story of the classic Frank Capra movie, It’s a Wonderful Life all by himself, and does. And Ed is so convincing that there are times when I’d swear there were several people from the Bailey family on stage at the once.

This production owes its genesis – its shape and heart – to the work that Tim Hyland and Ed did for last year’s performances at Thunder Mountain High School. Together Ed and Tim discovered the characters, the rhythm, and the technique essential to telling the story of the movie with one actor and a limited set. They brought the magic of this much-loved movie into being. For this year’s journey, Art asked if I would shepherd the play into being, and I was delighted at the chance to work with Ed on this project. Our task was to build on last year’s wonderful production, to bring the story to the more intimate, differently-shaped stage at Perseverance, and to take the opportunity to explore the play again.

Watching Ed work the characters with their signature postures – sitting back in the chair, his fingers in a steeple for Mr. Potter, and leaning forward, adjusting his legs and arms slightly, and there’s George Bailey, the vamp-ish flick of the blond hair of Violet Bick, the demure strength of Mary Hatch – has been instructional. It takes very little to transform from one character to the next and Ed makes it look easy, natural. But almost always, the turn of the head, the step forward or back, is so precisely choreographed that a variation – a look back instead of forward – leads to confusion. It’s a very precise dance for the actor. I am amazed at Ed’s understanding of how to put it together and how easy he makes it appear. 

As we’ve worked on this story of one person’s place in a community I’ve thought about George Rogers, who was a supportive, creative presence for Perseverance from the beginning of it’s life and who died earlier this fall. George appeared on stage in 9 or 10 productions, ranging from the crusty father in On Golden Pond, to the venal sheriff in Front Page, and to Firs, the aged family servant in Cherry Orchard. He brought a warm heart to all his roles, and to his life as well. He has left us richer for his presence in our lives.

Terry Cramer, Director

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