Me: Now, when the show is done- and it’s obviously bittersweet in every sense of the word- how is it for you to come from that emotional moment and have to be back to being Rob. Is it hard for you to make that transition back to reality?
Rob: Usually the moment I walk through the screen, I’m still a puddle. And usually it’s during the quick change into the Tramp for curtain call that everything falls off.
Me: Because then you’re back into the craziness.
Rob: Yah, I mean, it’s hard for me to still be aching from the sentiment of the end of my life when I’m doing a quick change. So, I snap out of it pretty quickly.
Me: Which is probably a good thing.
Rob: I’m definitely a proponent of, well, acting. And yes, it does take that moment to catch my breath, wipe my tears and move on, but I’m by no means in the dressing room after the show, aching from the heartache. You know, ultimately, we’re playing make believe.
Me: And it’s not a sad ending at all.
Rob: No, it’s not. I guess I would say that when I’m in it, I’m in it. And when I’m out of it, I’m out of it.
Me: Great. Have you reached the point where you can just snap into being the Tramp? Let’s even go back, did you discover the character, and the shuffle, yourself, or we’re you taught?
Rob: It started with just watching the movies over and over and over again. Then it was terrible imitation. Waddling around my apartment with my wife recording me with an iPhone. Then playing it for me and me saying, “that looks terrible!” It started as simply as that, but then I began to learn more and see how to specify his physical vocabulary. It’s almost like becoming fluid in a language. You start with conjugating the verbs.. That’s what it feels like. And at this point, I would say I’m fairly fluent in Tramp. You just begin to understand the instincts behind it. I was lucky that was when I was out in La Jolla, I was able to work with a man named Dan Kamin- the man that worked with Robert Downey Jr. on the Chaplin film. He has written several books on Charlie Chaplin. He was really great, and it was like training for a marathon. He was able to break things down for me in a way that I had never been able to do before. He was really able to give me the formulas for the physical behavior, which was nice. And then both of us just experimenting with the specificity of the Tramp. Since then it has been two years of me just watching every film, and like I said, just getting it to be fluid in the language rather than imitation.
Me: What would you say was the more difficult process? Learning to do all of the Tramp and things that Warren asked of you in order to originate the roll, or jumping into
Avenue Q, a show that was already running- with a presumably short time frame as well.
Rob: It was about three and half weeks...
Me: Including the Puppet Camp?
Rob: No, not with Puppet Camp. That was three days from ten to six, and then three and half weeks of rehearsal. You know, replacing and originating are two very different beasts. Replacing- I wanted to make the roles my own, I wanted to get the puppetry (which was also a language you had to sort of get fluent in), but when you’re going into a Broadway company that is already a machine in motion, you don’t want to screw up that machine. So, while I wanted to make new choices, and I did, many, but only ones that I knew wouldn’t throw off the balance of what was already happening in the building. And you rehearse by yourself. I was rehearsing, just me and the stage manager in a studio and then the first night I did it with the Broadway cast was my put-in on a Friday and I was on that night. That’s it. I mean, all of a sudden it’s like, “Hi, I’m Rob McClure. Let’s go!”.
Me: And suddenly, you’re on Broadway!
Rob: Yah, but on the other hand, with originating, you are there from the inception. You’re bonding with the cast in a way that you don’t when you’re replacing. You’re creating the show together in the room. It’s a different beast. But, I would say it’s more difficult, but in many different ways. Avenue Q was really... well, there were days I cried! You’re trying to get off book, and you can’t have your script because your hands are busy with the puppet. So you do get overwhelmed easily.
Me: I’ve heard it’s notoriously painful for those first few days.
Rob: Of course, yes! Try holding up your arm for two hours with nothing on it. Then put something on it! And you’re trying to make this thing come alive on your arm and there are people telling you “he didn’t inhale before that sentence.” And you are thinking that you just want to remember your words! So it is overwhelming, but this show has certainly had it’s countless moments like such as well.
Me: Not surprising, when you’re onstage about 95% of the time.
Rob: Right, and if I’m not onstage, I’m usually doing a panicked quick change.
Stay tuned for Part Six!