Coffee Break with Cody Nickell – December 2013

Cody NickellChallenging. That is the word that comes to mind when I try to describe the idea of performing in Gulfshore Playhouse’s upcoming production of Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol by Tom Mula. Well, exciting and challenging.

The show is a reimagining of Dickens’s classic tale about redemption and the Christmas spirit told through the eyes of Jacob Marley. Marley has died, and finds himself confronted with the prospect of eternal damnation unless he is able to make Ebenezer Scrooge have a willing and irreversible change of heart. So off he goes, with an impish, playful guardian angel in tow, to try to bring some holiday cheer.

What follows is a surprising story, filled with characters both familiar and new, huge in scope, taking us to heaven and hell and Victorian London, and back again. Oh, and did I mention that it is a one-man show?

Yep, that’s right. I am playing all the characters in this play. 18 of them to be exact. From Marley and Scrooge to angels and demons, and everyone in between. Me. Just me. So yeah, challenging seems an appropriate word. Exciting and challenging.

We officially start rehearsal next week, but I have been hard at work memorizing lines, creating unique voices and physicalities for all the different characters, and trying to get as well prepared as possible so we can hit the ground running.

I have been doing this a long time, professionally acting, I mean. It has been a career filled with a lot of luck and blessings, and I have been able to act all over the country in all kinds of shows. Shakespeare, contemporary comedies and dramas, world premieres, big shows and small shows, you name it I’ve done it. Except for the one-man show. I have never done that before. So I am bringing all the skills I have learned from my early training and all the shows I have ever done, and I am taking the relevant information from each and applying it to this play.

So, yeah, that is the challenging part. But, boy howdy, it sure is exciting as well. I get to use my whole bag of tricks in this show. Funny voices, physical comedy, emotional depth, technical precision, comedic timing, and character development are just some of the pieces of my theatrical puzzle that I am using to bring this story to life. I am having a blast sitting (pacing, jumping up and down, pretending to fly, whatever) in an empty rehearsal room, or at home, or in the car, or on a bike ride, trying to dig these characters out of wherever they are hiding inside of me and put them into the world. My wife has been very patient with me as I mumble to myself around the house.

The other day I wanted to get a workout in before work, and also try to run some lines, so I hopped on my bike to do a loop around my neighborhood. As I was returning home, I realized I had just a few more lines left, so I thought I would go once more around the block.

As I passed my house, I was talking to myself in one of the ridiculous and awesome voices I had created, and I heard my wife laughing at me from the backyard. At least she’s laughing. Like I said she is being very patient with what is turning out to be an all-consuming task. Exciting and challenging.

And the next step in Gulfshore Playhouse’s journey to bringing this stupendous story to life is actually starting rehearsals, and that means I get to start working with my amazing director, Kristen Coury. Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Gulfshore Playhouse, Kristen will be bringing her considerable skills to bear on this play, and I know that I will be in great hands as we take the next steps toward production.

We will shape and hone, try to perfect it, get it just right, hopefully with lots of joy (and coffee) along the way. And then that last piece. The most important piece of all. That last ingredient that makes it all work. We will add you. And by you, I mean our audience. And trust me, this is an audience that you are definitely going to want to be a part of.

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