From Rebecca, Artistic/Literary Intern
Pat your head and rub your belly. Now dance on your toes and deliver a monologue. Play the xylophone, wrestle…and could you sing, too?
The members of You Can't Take It With You's Sycamore family have wacky hobbies, and the actors playing these eccentric characters spent long hours becoming proficient in a crazy array of skills. Director Warner Shook would often pat his head and rub his belly during rehearsals saying, "I know it's hard. But you gotta do it."
Brad Farwell plays Ed Carmichael, an aspiring xylophone player and amateur printer. Before rehearsals began, Brad had no experience playing the xylophone (even though he has had to learn guitar, piano, harmonica and tambourine for other shows). To prepare Brad for the role, the Rep hired a percussion consultant to teach him "Xylophone 101."
Brad learned the songs that he needed to know for the show and repeatedly played scales to get accustomed to the instrument. To get more practice time in, the Rep arranged for Brad take a glockenspiel (an instrument similar to a xylophone) home with him to practice. Even during breaks in rehearsal, the cast could hear Brad practicing the xylophone in a dressing room down the hall. When asked if he would keep up with his new talent after the show, Brad responded, "Probably not. My dog hates it. She runs under the bed and howls."
Unlike her character Essie Carmichael, who has been practicing ballet for eight years, Annette Toutonghi has never been a ballerina. Even though Essie is a terrible dancer, Annette needed to be familiar with ballet movements. In order to get the vocabulary of a dancer and some basic skills, she started taking lessons months before rehearsals even began. Working in classes and private lessons, Annette’s teacher eventually told her that she could wear toe shoes, a must for Essie's character. She even took twice a week during the rehearsal process. Despite all the practice, Annette says she's far from losing the spirit of her skill-challenged character, "I'm in no danger of being too good," she says.
Wrestling, ballroom dancing, and singing are also on the long list of activities that the cast of You Can't Take It With You has had to tackle. On the surface the Sycamores might seem simply weird and, from an actor's perspective, a huge pain. But as Brad points out, they are just "enjoying life."
Pictured: Brad Farwell and Annette Toutonghi, photo by Chris Bennion.