How do I approach this year’s Bag&Baggage Christmas show Parfumerie compared to last years A KBNB A Kristmas Karol?
The most obvious difference is that this year’s show has been around, in one form or another, for over 80 years. Steven Kadar has been played by dozens, or hundreds, of other actors. Parfumerie is so well known that it has spawned dozens of adaptations and in those adaptations dozens of actors have played that version of Steven Kadar. Everything you could want to know about Parfumerie is on the page, or in a library, or on “the Google”.
The most recent adaptor of Parfumerie has taken all that history, the original text and all the best ideas of those previous versions and distilled them into this “best” version of Mr. Steven Kadar. I use the phrase “best” loosely because, as many of you will see, the “best” parts of Steven Kadar are hard to find. But that’s for you to see starting the day after thanksgiving…so I won’t belabor the point here.
Donald Donaldson, however, is an entirely different can of wax….or ball of worms, if you will. Ol’ Donnie Boy had been played by exactly ONE other actor in all the history of the world and, as this script was a sequel to that performance, this particular version of Donald Donaldson was entirely new to the world at large. A KBNB Kristmas Karol had never been seen before. There were no old version or adaptations to lean on…there was no “standard bearer” production that we could use as a safety net if our well of ideas ran dry. “The Google” was of no use to us.
If it wasn’t on the page we had to come up with it. Large swathes of KBNB were made up during rehearsal. To give you an idea of how things were different. In an average four hour rehearsal block we will typically work between 20 and 40 pages of text per evening, that’s working quickly but at a reasonable rate. It gives you time to work things a few times, to go back, to try ideas, switch blocking and run it, etc. During KBNB’s rehearsals there would be days we would get through two pages, barely.
This year is an exercise in how to most effectively tell the story as written. How can my version of Steven Kadar heighten the highs and lower the lows of Parfumerie. How do I help my fellow actors get to the moments that they need to? How do the choices I make help the story, and my fellow actors, become the most successful version (of this version) of Parfumerie? These are the questions I ask this year.
Last year the questions were more similar to this: When Donald Donaldson is nervous does he fake vomit? Or pass out? Can you pass out vomit? And on what lines should he fake vomit? And at what point should he no longer be able to stop the fake vomiting? AND when that DOES happen would it be most effective for it to be on Felicity’s dress or in Gilroy’s hat?
You know…the big questions. Silly but just as important as getting the bits just right were crucial to the audience’s enjoyment of that performance.
This year we are putting B&B’s particular coat of paint on a house that has been built and lived in and standing for years. Whereas, last year, we walked into an empty meadow and had to build the house from the ground up.
Don’t let my previous statement fool you. They are both equally difficult jobs. And they are both great jobs. They are, however, different jobs.
I hope you will enjoy the end result of this job a great deal.
B&B Resident Artist