This week, we've teamed up with the folks at Groundhog Day for our "Creating Punxsutawney" week at The Ensemblist. Everyday this week, we will bring you an insider look at how the talented ensemble of the show developed their characters. Today, friend of the podcast Rheaume Crenshaw shares how she's created her three characters in the show.
I play Doris, a band member (Clarinet) and the Scientologist in Groundhog Day on Broadway. I'm having an awesome time working at the August Wilson Theater, playing such fun characters. Groundhog Day isn't my first time play multiple characters in a production. I played three characters in The Family Resemblance at Bingham Camp Theater Retreat and five-six characters in the Working Theatre's Alternating Currents. It's always an adventure and a welcomed challenge to playing multiple characters. In Groundhog Day it's been particularly fun because we're a cast of character actors who love to play. We're all a little weird in our own awesome way... Thank goodness! So with that said, let's get into it!
First up: The Scientologist
I was given the frame work, by director Matthew Warchus, that being a Scientology recruiter isn't her main job. She's not the "real deal" when it comes to this belief, that she's from Punxsutawney, and that Phil has come to her by way of a recommendation. I decided that she's a little off center. She's loud but thinks she's somewhat internal with her thoughts and physically standing up completely straight happens very rarely. She shows up to introduce an option of treatment for Phil's problems. In preparation I did watch a documentary on Scientology. I think that I her costume helped me a lot with this character. Rob Howell got everything right, as the Scientologist I even wear actual symbols of Scientology: the lapel pin and the pendant on the necklace. And prop wise, besides the Dianetics book, there is an actual E-Meter on her cart!
The clarinet playing band member isn't very distinguishable from the other band members. The frame work was much tighter for this character. The direction for what the band should be was more choreography driven. The choreographers, Ellen Kane and Peter Darling, wanted the band to be extremely energetic and referenced a wind-up toy band. With each entrance the excitement we have has to grow and become more and more annoying to the Phil character. We'd all been told as a cast that Groundhog Day is a huge event in this town. So I felt that the band probably practices year round for this once a year event. So for them the excitement has been growing even in anticipation of the GHD celebration. Also… though the days seem to exactly repeat, the band choreography is different every single day that they enter the stage (within the show of course).
Doris (whose last name, in my head, is Jenkins)
In the movie Groundhog Day, Doris wasn't a flushed out character. We don't learn anything about her story or background. I'd never seen the London performance of GHD and no definitive decision had been made for who Doris is except mainly her occupation. In sitting down for an overview of all the characters in the musical, the Director wasn't sure if he saw her as a "tough cookie" or not. The tokens of insight that I was given were: Her diner is the heart of the town, the diner isn't everything she wants out of life, and she has dreams of being something more. I was also told that she likely opens the diner at 5am for breakfast and closes her doors on GHD until after the celebration when members of the community start heading over to hang out and eat.
With Doris, I made a conscious decision that I didn't want her to fall into any stereotypes. I wanted her to be able to easily fit into this community of genuine people that are very happy. People that even with problems still find the joy in everyday life. I think she's hopeful, sweet, and maybe a little nosey - not for gossip sake but just to be "in the know." As much as Doris wants to be a singer, she can't really sing. She's dreamt of being a singer for a very long time and wholeheartedly believes that "One day I'll (she'll) learn how to sing." A hopeful, bright, and playful quality is what I aim for in Doris. I've heard that sometimes the wardrobe team likes to read some of the fun things that Doris writes on her order pad. Wonder if they are naughty or nice?!