The Challenges of Playing Younger

Doug Hamilton and Carrie Wintersteen in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Theatre B.

by Doug Hamilton (Michael, God of Carnage)

God of Carnage offers a different kind of stretch for me as an actor.  Many years ago as a young performer, the challenge was playing age—adding lines and wrinkles and gray and adopting posture and gait to complement the effect of someone older. Aside from that rite of passage, my roles usually involve someone around my age. As Michael Novak in Carnage, for the first time that I can recall, I play someone younger.

The dye job helped. Hair and makeup in Michael’s case involved a dark-brown treatment for seriously graying hair, enhanced with matching bushy eyebrows and bold glasses and jewelry worthy of a successful guy. All that said, the biggest help came from the ensemble. Acting is a profoundly collaborative discipline. An actor’s performance is inexorably connected to the people who share the space– the other actors and the audience.  First, the actors have to be believable and, second, the audience will decide whether they are, or not.

Doug Hamilton in “Hamp” in 1968 at MSUM.

Please allow me to holler how wonderful it is to work with Carrie, Tucker and Tierney! It’s exhilarating because they come ready to rock and roll. What a privilege it is to be challenged by a script that leads me to explore the human experience from a different place. God of Carnage is a very good play because it uses a simple premise– a playground incident– to reveal how adults can’t stop channeling the playground. Michael is a salesman proud of his success and attentive to making a good impression… Until he starts “sliding down that slope.”

If you’re reading this blog entry as a Carnage audience member, thank you. The audience’s presence guarantees that every show is one-of-a-kind. The social chemistry of performance results when people who love to bring a script to life invite people to watch and react. Actors sense the involvement of the audience. It makes a difference.

2013 is an anniversary year for me. Forty years ago I finished an MFA and a rewarding collegiate theater experience and started my professional life. I joined Actors’ Equity in 1973. Circumstances, opportunity and serendipity took me in different directions. Along the way there were occasional stage jobs, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that COS realigned me.

Doug Hamilton as Dr. Chebutykin in “The Three Sisters” at MSUM.

Theatre B enabled the realignment by casting me in great roles in wonderful plays; beginning with Mr. Lockhart in The Seafarer (fall 2010, directed by Jennifer Tuttle), Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream (spring 2011, directed by Brad Delzer), Judge Vaughn Walker in the staged reading of 8 (fall 2012, Delzer) and Michael in God of Carnage (Delzer!). I also enjoyed playing Dr. Chebutykin inThe Three Sisters (spring 2012, Tuttle!) as a guest artist at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

I am very appreciative of Theatre B, which has been around for more than a decade. It meets a real need for “emerging artists and displaced professionals.” It’s an intimate space where the work and the art are taken seriously and a high standard of production management and execution rewards audiences and artists alike.

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