My Life with Scrooge(s)
Posted by Lisa Altomare on November 30th, 2009
I am lucky enough to have been given the gift of performing in McCarter’s A Christmas Carol not once, but-as of this year-four times. Each year has offered me a jeweled Fabergé Christmas egg: Princeton and Palmer square in all of its festive glory, the camaraderie of new and old “Carolers”, the infectious excitement of the children in the cast. But of course, the exquisite surprise in the center of the “egg” is the actor playing Scrooge.
As “Mrs. Dilber”, his sincere and much put upon housekeeper, I have gotten to learn and honor the various “scroogisms” on and off the stage. And without naming names I dare to divulge a few of these to you, kind audience. (Mrs. Dilber whispers in my ear to beg for your discretion, so let this be just between you and I.) Where shall we begin?
Many Scrooges have enjoyed lifting a pint or glass of “spirits” to smooth away the “grueling” (no pun intended!) rehearsal and performance schedule.
Where are their “haunts?” Scrooges have been known to enjoy the fine wines and cognacs of Mediterra, spent time at the A&B and Triumph Brewing Company or enjoy a nice pint of Guinness by the cozy hearth at The Yankee Doodle Tap Room in the Nassau Inn. Mrs. Dilber traditionally has shared a pint with Mr. Scrooge on one or two occasions (all right, perhaps on more than one or two.)
All Scrooges must have a hot beverage at the intermission, or “interval”, as our British-born Scrooges call it. Mrs. Dilber quickly discovered that between the somewhat acrobatic end of Act I and the surely acrobatic set up for Act II, there was little to no time for a Scrooge to make, let alone drink, his libation. So, as fitting her duties, she perked up her ears in her dressing room for a certain word cue and flurried over to the backstage kitchen to put up the water to boil.
Although hot water is available from the coffee machine in the backstage kitchen, a certain Scrooge scoffed at the idea, explaining a decent cup of tea could not be brewed from merely “hot” water, and indicated the special electric kettle which was better suited to the job. Curiously enough, the English Scrooge preferred “Barry’s Irish tea,” and the Irish Scrooge preferred “Barry’s English tea.” No Scrooge required sugar, though milk was desired by all but one. (2% milk was the absolutely essential milk for one Scrooge; imagine poor Mrs. Dilber panicking after almost pouring in a dash of half and half!)
Certainly there were times, owing to the festive season of the year-and various “Secret Santa” duties-when cast members were privy to the site of Mrs, Dilber flying down the hall, cup and saucer in hand, crying aloud, “Heavens, but I’m late for Mr. Scrooge’s tea!”, parting a sea of crinolined and Fezziwigged party-goers to get to Mr. Scrooges dressing room in time.
Modes of transportation have differed: one Scrooge came and went to the theater in his Suburu Forrester, one Scrooge strolled with delight through the majesty of the University campus, and one particularly fit Scrooge was seen careening down the street on a bicycle!
All Scrooges have been, aside from charming, dapper, elegant, and more than occasionally opinionated, (Mrs. Dilber says “men of high standards), a “classy date”. Absolute consummate professionals, generous on and off stage, good humored, patient, men of enormous energy, talent, and skill. It has been-and is-an enormous bundle of Christmas joy to “play” with such fine fellows. And as Mrs. Dilber (who taps me on the shoulder and reminds me we must be off to rehearsal!): “Oh Misters Scrooge…Merry Christmas, a Merry Merry Christmas Misters Scrooge!”
And may I personally share my heartfelt and profound sadness at the loss of the great Paul Benedict, my first Mr. Scrooge, who shall always be nearest and dearest to my heart. I miss you Paul, and I dedicate my performance this year to you.
Posted by Lisa Altomare, who plays Mrs. Dilber in McCarter Theatre’s 2009 Production of A Christmas Carol.