Q&A with J.C. Cutler "Ebenezer Scrooge" in A Christmas Carol
Members of the cast of the Guthrie Theater's production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, adapted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala with set design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre and lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 13 - December 29, 2012, on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Michael Brosilow
I don’t know about you, but I cringe at the sight of holiday decorations displayed even before a single 50% off tag is slapped onto Halloween decorations.
Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, an iconic story based in the 19thcentury during the Victorian era, at a time when old Christmas traditions were forgotten and replaced with new customs.
The holidays are all about family and tradition. Thankfully, that’s exactly what you’ll witness at the Guthrie’s 38th annual production of A Christmas Carol.
My family was visiting from Connecticut and we always spend the holidays together. As we watched the sold out theater fill up row by row with children, parents and grandparents, I couldn't help but think of how excited I was to be surrounded by the most special people in my life. I hope to continue this tradition and share Dickens story with my own children someday.
I had a chance to speak with J.C. Cutler who plays Ebenezer Scrooge for the second year in a row at the Guthrie. Cutler brings Crispin Whittell’s version of A Christmas Carol to life night after night for theater-goers young and old to enjoy.
What can the audience expect?
Word for word, A Christmas Carol is one of the greatest stories ever written. You can expect to see a really engaging story that will warm your heart, slowly but surely. People can expect anything that they would ever want to experience at the theater – fireworks, dancing, incredible Victorian costumes and set design.
From the moment the lights come up and people are walking through the streets, it’s like being in an old movie of Victorian England.
What sets this year’s production apart from the rest?
I love the shows with the young people because I learn a lot about the play and about the story. Adults are going to get more adult stuff that maybe they have feelings for having gone down the road a little bit, but kids really react to honest emotion and honest storytelling. It’s an amazing experience to perform in front of young people. They get totally swept up. I can hear people crying, I can hear people giggling. It’s pretty cool.
How did you prepare for this role?
We have a total of 58 performances this year and I’m always working on my character, finding new ways to enrich things so they never, ever get stale. I worked with Joe Dowling on the essentials of the character and how to make the huge swing from a man who’s cut off from the world and lives a very cold life, self-sufficient, very unhappy and how he slowly wakes up to who he is when he’s shown his past and he see’s people who actually enjoy life.
This year I pick up where I left off but under the direction of Joe Chvala. The run last year was really tough. It’s such a big stage which requires a lot of physical and vocal preparation.
To me the core is figuring out how to do the transformation from a cold, seemingly heartless man, to a man that’s dancing in the streets in the end and giving away his stuff. He’s learned that he’s essentially not who he thought he was and that there is redemption and he can change.
No matter what else happens in the play – beyond all the fireworks, all the dancing, all the humor, all the beautiful stuff that we do, the core of the story is of a man who changes, completely and finds redemption.
By the end people really get why they come to see A Christmas Carol.
Scrooge is almost reborn into his life. It’s a wonderful story.
What do you enjoy most about this production?
I have a unique opportunity, more than anyone else in the show, to have a relationship with the audience throughout the play. I’m always on stage. I’m hearing them react. After a while, you get a sense of there’s an emotional thing that’s building between the actor and the audience. The story has to make people realize that someone can really change and have a new life. At the end when I see Tiny Tim, I fall to the floor in tears because I realize he’s alive.
I challenge myself with each run to do it like it’s the first performance and I emotionally commit.
I truly believe that people respond to emotional truth. When the audience believes they’re connecting on an emotional level with you then you’ve done something, you’ve taken them somewhere.
If you weren't’t acting, what other career path would you be happy in?
I don’t know anything other than acting. I love working with dogs though so I’d probably do something with that. I volunteer at the Humane Society and also work with Adoption Preparation team with neglected dogs.
A Christmas Carol runs through December 29
Tickets are still available: $34-$85 Wurtele Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis