Me: Besides the Stage Manager and Dance Captain, has there been any upkeep on the show from anyone in the creative team yet?
Rob: For sure. Every now and then, Warren pops in and will always have notes for us. But it’s exactly that- it’s maintenance. The show is frozen. And our dance captain has swung out twice in our run. But it’s really just about maintaining the integrity of Warren’s initial production. We’ve had the composer and the book writer come several times now. And they always come back and have sweet things to say. There is a clear effort to keep everything tight. We try to remember that it may be our 60th performance or something, but it’s the audience’s first. Unless of course it’s you, and then it’s your sixth or something.
Me: Yup, it will be my seventh next time!
Rob: I always think, you know, these are people who paid for babysitters and it might be their only night out for the month and it’s expensive and by the time they pay for their tickets and their parking and their babysitter, it’s an event for someone.
Rob: So we are required to bring it! If we’re not feeling up to it that day, and it’s the seventh show of the week, it’s not fair. Somebody else has made a big deal of this night. And I remember the nights when I went to the theatre and was profoundly changed by that experience. So, realizing that there is at least somebody in that thousand seat house that is being changed or being moved. It’s about doing it for them.
Me: Are there any particular films you draw on more than others, even just in the terms of any that you truly love.
Rob: There are a couple. Whenever I need to be funny, like Little Tramp funny physically, I watch a movie which is twenty minutes long. It’s a film he did for Mutual Pictures and it’s called 1 A.M. He shows up home in the back of the cab, drunk, and it takes him twenty minutes to get from the back of the cab to his bed, and it is basically his house turning into a crazy funhouse, obstacle course- that his drunken self is trying to get through. It is one of the funniest things... I laugh out loud every time. And it’s classic. Staggering to the front door, realizing he doesn’t have his keys. So, he climbs through the window, steps in a goldfish bowl, walks over to the table, gets the keys, goes back out the window to the door to unlock it.
Me: That’s great.
Rob: It is great. Great stuff. And so physical. Every time I watch it I think, “how did he not kill himself?” There were three times where there is this huge clock at the top of the staircase with a huge pendulum swinging back and forth, and when he gets to the top of the steps, the pendulum hits him in the chin and sends him backwards down the stairs. And every time I watch it I think “how is he not breaking his neck?”
Me: No stunt doubles in those days.
Rob: No, it was all him, all him. So that’s definitely one of my favorites, 1 A.M. Then for the sentimental side of the Tramp I think City Lights is a beautiful film, and it’s the one that really reveals what is underneath the hat, the cane and the mustache. He is a poor, homeless nobody and that’s the one where you can realize see just how much the tipping of the hat and the playfulness of the cane is an act. It’s all this homeless nobody desperately trying to be taken seriously by people. So, when he tips his hat, it’s not just because it’s quirky and funny. He’s tipping his hat because he’s hoping to fool people into thinking he’s somebody that’s far more important than he is. That film was a great learning experience for me, and I think it’s one of the most beautiful and romantic films of all time. And, not to mention, “talkies” had been out for twelve years, and everyone was telling him that he couldn’t make another silent movie because they just don’t make them anymore. Well, he said, “Watch this.” It was one of his largest hits. Then, for Chaplin’s profound impact on the world, I think The Great Dictator is one of the greatest films of all time. Putting it into the context of the world and his life, the world had been waiting for that character to speak for thirty years. And finally, the little guy with the hat, the cane and the mustache is confused for Hitler, put in front of the Nazi army, and finally has something to say. What it is is an eight minute, absolutely blow-your-mind speech that is as relevant today as it was then. You realize just how epic a man we were dealing with. So, I would say those three for very different reasons are my sort of trifecta of Charlie Chaplin.
Stay tuned for Part Seven!