Sunday, July 14, 2013

Becoming Mr. Hardcastle

Mr. Hardcastle

I've taken a hiatus from blogging for the last three or four months, not because I had nothing to say but because I had no time to say it.  I have been working sixty plus hours a week for the better part of three months.  In that time I've spent precious little time on the computer.  Work, eat, rehearse, sleep.  That's about it.

So here's how all that came about.

I was assigned several months ago to design the costumes for "She Stoops to Conquer".  As I read the play, I found I really liked the character of Mr. Hardcastle.  I drew him first and felt that the whole costume design hinged around that design.

The design team, which consisted of Hyrum Conrad the director, Richard Clifford the set and lighting designer, Antonia Clifford the sound designer and me as costume designer, met several months ago and discussed where we needed the show to go in each of our respective areas.  Because of a line Mr. Hardcastle spoke in act I, ("It was but yesterday he fastened me wig to the back of me chair, and when I went to make a bow, I pop't me bald head in Mrs. Frizzle's face!") I told Hyrum that I wanted whoever was to play Hardcastle to shave his head into male pattern baldness, and to either be portly already or to wear a fatsuit.  We also decided the part should be cast age appropriately.

We bandied a few  names around and didn't agree on anyone, and left it at that.  About a half an hour later, Hyrum came to my office and asked me if I would like to play the part of Hardcastle.  I immediately said, "Yes!"  Then I asked, "Does this mean I have to shave my head?"  He nodded.

Prior to him asking me, I had not even considered myself as a candidate.  I am really glad he asked me to do that part.  I literally did not have a single bad day of rehearsal throughout this process.  I never once asked myself, "Why did I ever agree to this?"  Every day was a joy for me.  I worked with some very talented actors and had a good stage management and tech crew.  I always enjoy working with Hyrum.

He works in an unorthodox fashion called "Mosaic Acting" which allows for much deeper character study and development I think, and it makes the actors take more responsibility for the final product.  It really becomes a partnership, and great discoveries are made.  There is much more freedom to explore a character in this way of working.  Instead of a director telling you what to think or where to move, you learn your character inside and out and move appropriately.  If I am ever fortunate enough to be cast in another play where we perform in this way, I'll blog about it in greater detail.

One of the sweetest things about this part is that I discovered quite by accident about a month ago that my Dad had played the part of Mr. Hardcastle in 1966 at the Playmill Theatre.  It was sweet and it also put a lot of pressure on me.

Hardcastle may be the largest part I've ever played, and it is among the most fun parts I've ever played.  Not only did I have to shave my head and wear a fatsuit, I also had to learn a dialect.  I've only used a dialect on stage once before, and that was in "The Robber Bridegroom."  That dialect was a made-up one though.  This one was taught and coached.  We used a West Midlands dialect for the country folk in the play, and early on my accent moved between country English to Scottish to Russian with a little pirate mixed in here and there.  Slowly, I worked through and became reasonably consistent in my dialect I am told.  That may have been the most difficult part of the whole process.

I decided that since I had to shave the top of my head for the play, I would shave the rest of my head after we closed so my hair would grow in uniformly.  That, and I wanted to see the scar on the back of my head from when a wall fell on me in Buffalo, New York back in 1991.

But enough talk, here are the pictures.

Trimming the mustache

Lathering up


Clean lipped.  My students were all scandalized when I showed up without a mustache because it is 
apparently how they identify me.  I was pretty amazed that they commented more on the mustache
 than when I shaved my head partway.

Before the indignity


Tabula rasa

The tools

Applying the base

The corrective part applied

Linework applied

Wrinkles, highlight and shadows

Sealing with powder


The fatsuit.  First of all, I had heavy tights.  The camouflage booty shorts were there
 with snaps applied to hold the fatsuit in place.  The fatsuit was built on a cotton T-shirt
covered with poly-fill quilt batting and covered with nylon tricot to control it. 
Essentially, I'm wearing a quilt.

The knickers were made of heavy upholstery fabric
and the shirt was made of heavy bridal satin.

The vest was added next and it was made of heavy drapery fabric.

Then the coat out of the same upholstery fabric as the knickers. 
To suggest that this costume was hot would be a gross understatement.

Add to that a "great flaxen wig"

And there is Mr. Hardcastle
Prior to being in this part, I weighed 195 pounds.  I weighed myself on closing night and weighed in at 177.4 pounds.  I'm certain a hefty portion of that weight came from wearing the sauna in the 90 degree heat in Rexburg, Idaho in the middle of July.  I am not complaining, however.  This was the most fun I've had on stage in many years.  I would gladly do it again.

Closing night:

After the show on closing night, several of the company members said they would like to take a shot with the clippers on my head.  I let them.  I was going to get most of the hair off with the clippers and then shave the rest.  One of the students asked to do that part as well, so I allowed it.  Kind of fun really.  Sadly, the battery on the camera died in process, so the photo essay will have to be incomplete.

Last chance to back out

Committed now


Everyone that wanted one, got a shot at me

That's one way to take your frustrations out against the teacher...

Last shot, almost done

Picture we took today at Big Springs with my chrome dome.
Believe it or not, being totally bald doesn't bother me near as much as just the top of the head being shaved.  I do believe it bothers my wife, the hot chick so I'll let it grow back in.  I felt I needed to shave it all the way so my hair could all grow in at the same rate and so I wouldn't have a two layer haircut for a couple of months.  I suggested that I should keep the head shaved but grow the mustache back, but she wasn't having any of that.

Hopefully this is a good post for returning to blogging!