Actress Blogs About “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol”

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by Melissa Malloy

Two years ago I did the scariest thing I have ever done in my life.

I pursued my dreams!

I decided to move away from my family and friends in Colorado and come to Washington to follow my acting dreams.  I closed my eyes and jumped not knowing if there was going to be a net to catch me.

My net was Burien Little Theater.

I have been an actress for as long as I can remember.  I see pictures of me as a child, and you can tell I was a ham.  My mom always said I could be in the worst mood and the minute you pointed a camera at me I was all smiles and silliness.  My earliest memories are of me on a stage of some sort.  I was an angel in a Christmas play, flashing my ruffled panties at the audience.  I jumped onstage to dance with the flamenco dancers, even though I didn’t know how.  I stood behind the camera watching a Lite-Brite commercial being filmed trying to figure out who the kids were talking to, waiting for my turn to talk to the imaginary Lite-Brite Man.  I acted out scenes with my friends from the cartoons we watched earlier that day.

As I got older, I started acting in actual plays.  I was Poker Alice in the melodrama “Stop That Villain!,” cutting cards and yelping “YIHAW!”  In high school, I was a theater geek.  I lived and breathed the theater in all forms.  I worked backstage, onstage, in the house, in the box office, wherever I was needed.  The place I felt most at home, though, was onstage.

My first serious play was “Macbeth.”  I played the Third Witch.  It was really the first time I learned what it was to become someone else, to create someone else.  I learned about subtext, motives, language, purpose, and more.  Our teacher, and my first mentor, Mr. Buchanan, let us work on our own to discover the witches’ rituals and dances.  He helped us pry into their lives and discover their motives.  It was exhilarating.  We learned how the movement helps tell the story along with the words.  There was indescribable electricity in the air opening night.  When we crawled out from under our rocks for the first time, I heard the audience gasp with surprise, and I knew this is what I was meant to do.  I was home.

I acted in many other plays throughout high school and chose to major in theater at the University of Colorado.  I learned more about everything.  I was like a sponge.  I learned more about creating a character from the inside out.  I learned how to embody a character physically, and I moved towards playing people out of my comfort zone.  I made an ass out of myself and learned not to care.  Mostly I learned humility, disappointment, and rejection.  I was no longer in every play.  I didn’t get every part I wanted.  I was no longer part of the theater crowd.  I was just another actress struggling to be seen.

After college, I moved back in with my parents.  I felt lost and didn’t know if I had the courage to dream anymore.  College was hard, and I was tired of being told no.  So I quit.  I didn’t do anything for over a year.  What did I want to do with my life?  Where did I go next?  Then I saw an ad in the paper calling for people to audition for a play at the college nearby.  I decided to go for it.  My heart never beat so loud.  It had been over three years since I had been in a play.  I was scared I wouldn’t get a part, but I was even more scared that I would.  I went in for the audition, my knees knocking together so loud I was sure the director could hear.  My mouth was so dry I couldn’t swallow; I was sure I couldn’t talk either.  My name was called, and it was time to jump or run.  I walked down the aisle to the stage, walked up the stairs, walked to the center, turned, took a deep breath, and said “Hello my name is Melissa Malloy and I am auditioning today.”  I got out my monologue, thanked the director, and left.  Two days later, I had a part.  I was now the Female Admirer in Steve Martin’s “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”  It was a small part, but I always got the biggest laugh.  All of my fears and doubt melted away.  Everything flooded into my memory and I knew where I was supposed to be.  Over the next four years, I challenged myself in unexpected ways.  I acted in my first musical and realized I wasn’t completely tone deaf.  I could sing notes, not that I knew what the notes were, but I could sing them.  I could dance without looking like a spaz.  I joined Theater Masters.  They hold playwriting competitions and the winners get to have their play performed along with nine other short plays.  We would have a week to block, memorize, and get costumes, props, and sets for two venues.  We were cast in no less than three plays: some comedies, some dramas.  It was an amazing challenge that made me feel alive and exhilarated.  I did dinner theater for the first time, moving in and out of the audience interacting with them, improvising more and more because of the unexpected responses.

The time came when I needed to move away from small town life and test my talents in a city environment.  I chose Seattle.  I packed up everything I owned, including a couple of friends, and drove across four states to my new home.  It took awhile to get settled.  I had to find a place to live, a job, another job.  Once I was settled, it was time to start looking into theaters and auditioning.  I looked up every theater in Seattle and went to their websites looking for anything I could do in a theater.  When I got to Burien Little Theater’s site, it had a button for volunteers.  I filled out the information thinking I would be e-mailed in a couple of days because they needed ushers.  Instead I was called twenty minutes later and asked how fast I could get to the theater.  Twenty minutes later I was a stagehand for “Dracula.”  Three months after that I made my Seattle stage debut in “Lysistrata” as one of the Old Women.

I am about to open my second show with Burien Little Theater, “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” (you can buy tickets online here).  It tells the classic story from Marley’s point of view.  “Marley was dead to begin with…” so we start out in hell.  This show answers the questions of why Marley chose to haunt Scrooge, and how he came up with the ideas of the different ghosts.  It shows how Scrooge’s redemption was Marley’s redemption.  I am playing the Record Keeper, an old woman who enjoys making Marley suffer.  I’m beginning to think someone is trying to tell me something.  Maybe I just have an old soul, or maybe it’s the silver streak in my hair.  I’ll let you decide when you come see the show.

Here’s a video of one of my scenes:

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This show has been an exciting challenge for everyone involved.  M. Elizabeth Eller has adapted a four-person script to a six-person script because she just couldn’t decide who to cast, so she cast us all.  Thank you, Elizabeth, for taking on that challenge.  The cast consists of Eric Hamlin as Marley at all stages of Marley’s life, John Mallory as Scrooge at all stages of Scrooge’s life, Allison Wooldridge is the Bogle (the voice inside Marley’s head), Melissa Malloy (me) as the Record Keeper of Purgatory, and Hannah Schnabel and Steve Scheide play everybody else.  There is a minimal set and costume pieces to represent characters, but most things are left to the audience’s imagination.  As an ensemble, I believe we do a wonderful job of drawing the audience pictures of the story.  Elizabeth has done an amazing job helping all of us build our characters into three dimensional beings instead of the caricatures they could have been.  She has helped me “find my inner bitch” as she so eloquently put it.  We have laughed a lot; Eric has cried a lot.  As Elizabeth said last night, with most shows you always feel like you want another week of rehearsal before you open, but this show is right where it needs to be.

So after everyone has stuffed themselves on turkey and stuffing, after a hard day of shoving people out of the way to get that digital camera on sale for a dollar, when you’re tired and black and blue, come in to the Burien Little Theater and watch us torture someone else for a couple of hours.  You’ll be glad you did.  “God bless us, everyone!”

Here’s another short scene from “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” featuring Eric Hamlin as Marley and Allison Wooldridge as Bogle (did I mention that you can buy tickets online here?):

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One Response to “Actress Blogs About “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol””
  1. M. Elizabeth Eller says:

    Lovely behind the scenes look, Melissa. And remember – I had quite a few actors to choose from, I just loved you six so much I wasn't willing to give up any of you. 😉

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