For our second Christmas season as a married couple, my husband (David Foubert) and I plunged headfirst into the world of Christmas spirit. We ended up in different interpretations of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” just seven blocks apart.
In truth, our Christmas journey began in the Mediterranean Ocean in June, where Dave got word he was asked to audition for ACT’s “A Christmas Carol”, Seattle’s long-running and respected traditional production of the work. So while we sailed from port to port in Italy, my husband began learning (and reciting) sides for Jacob Marley. It was a bit of cognitive dissonance, but nothing I’m not familiar with as an actor’s wife.
Months after he received word that he was in fact joining that cast as Marley, I finally received word that I’d be returning to the cast of “A(n Improvised) Christmas Carol” at my improv home, Unexpected Productions. Our cast is only six performers a night, so my roles included Belle, Mrs. Cratchitt, Turkey Boy, Solicitor, Student, Childhod Friend, Caroler, and Thief. Plus additional cameos should the genres suggested require the support (like a love interest for the Ghost of Christmas Pasada in a telenovela). In our version, unlike my husband’s ultra-faithful version, we get 30 suggestions from the audience to rebuild Scrooge’s story in a completely new context.
Of course, as luck had it this year, my husband was in New Jersey for the two months immediately prior to his rehearsals for Carol, playing Henry VIII with the Shakespeare Theater of NJ. With only two weeks of rehearsal prior to his opening, this meant some heavy duty research at home, watching whatever versions of the story we could stream (starting with Muppet Christmas Carol, naturally.)
My rehearsals started even later, owing to the fact that this year’s cast for Improvised Carol were all veterans to the production. Then, the night after Thanksgiving, we simultaneously opened our shows, beginning a 5 week span where the two of us brought the Christmas spirit over and over again.
Our Improvised Carol performs to a house of 200. We sold out most nights, and performed 4 times a week, including Christmas week. (I was not in 5 performances due to travel.) His performs to a house of 400, and performed 2 times a night 6 nights a week. Yes, that’s 12 performances a week. I’ve never heard of such a schedule before, and I admire the way my husband tackled the challenge. Between the two of us, we likely brought the Christmas spirit to tens of thousands of Seattleites (though the lions’ share of the reach goes to my husband!)
All this Christmas spirit doesn’t leave much time for the two of us, especially considering I work a full time day job and had 10 days of out of state travel Carpooling on the ride home helped some nights, and gave us a chance to swap stories about actors with food poisoning and Scrooge as an NFL coach. You learn to make the most of breakfasts and the brief hour between getting home and passing out from exhaustion.
We did make time to see each others’ productions, however. My husband came early in the run with the friend who is responsible for bringing us together, and then again on my birthday with his family. (Yes, on top of all this I had my birthday on the solstice, and a performance that day to boot.)
I got to attend his show early in the run, from the front row which is essentially onstage. Even from that distance, it took me several moments to really accept that the spectre in front of Scrooge was in fact my husband. And once that sank in, there was a moment of adult identity crisis. As you grow up, the actors that play Marley and Scrooge are generally the oldest in the production, another generation removed from you. But we’ve crossed a life threshold now, and it’s my husband clanking around in chains and scaring children in the name of Scrooge’s salvation. Didn’t expect that moment to make me feel disproportionately adult, but there you go.
As for my own experience, it was a great year to perform in Carol. The audiences were up from last year, and tons of new attendees. My favorite show was probably Scrooge as Jim Harbaugh, playing Belle as a referee, ending the show with the Cratchitts sitting in a training hot tub with Scrooge – and the night where Scrooge played a bad psychiatrist, and where he and Belle started out as couples therapists together. And I disproportionately enjoyed the brief improvised dance number we added to the Fezziwig scene this year. My other characters let me be quick and witty, but Belle lets me draw out Scrooge’s human side, and I enjoy the journey. Plus it was a great, extremely veteran cast, always supporting each other and producing very consistently funny work.
Christmas itself, and the celebrations around it, were quite the challenging schedule origami. I wanted to go and celebrate Christmas with my parents in LA, as it is their first West Coast Christmas, but with Dave’s schedule as it was, he had to fly out Christmas Eve night to join us, and returned first thing on the 26th for another two-show day. Many holiday parties are skipped due to conflicts with our performance schedule. The thing about doing a holiday show is that it is the entirety of your own holiday season, leaving little room for anything else.
Tonight, I’ll be attending my husband’s closing night performance, watching as he puts Jacob to bed for the last time this year. Then off to a little cast party for the Improvised Carol cast. Tomorrow night we’ll go see A Christmas Story, The Musical, since we have friends in it but could not attend during our own performances… Our Christmas season ends late this year.
As always, we are sad to see our respective shows end, but very satisfied with what was a very successful year for both theatres. And now, we get some of our evenings back. (Well, I have another show opening on the 8th, so … maybe in mid-January we’ll both have our evenings free. An actor’s life.)
I’d say that perhaps next year will be calmer, but I suspect there is a high likelihood this situation will repeat itself. At least my birthday is a Monday next year, most likely a dark day for both productions.
Until next year when this Christmas chaos will probably occur again – God bless us everyone!
As luck would have it, five of the eight Improvised Christmas Carol cast members are reuniting for the return of my most favorite show, the improvised Star Trek parody Where No Man Has Gone Before, in less than two weeks! Click here for tickets – Jan 8th through 11th at Theatre Off Jackson.