Great Characterizations

October 23, 2014

In this adaptation, six actors play over 40 characters to bring Dickens’ novel to life. That requires actors with broad range who are capable of making each character distinctive and memorable. In addition to costume changes, the actors create characters by changing their voices and their physicality. Here is how Doug Hara, who plays Herbert Pocket and Mr. Wopsle among others, created some of the many characters he plays:

In this play we switch characters so often, and sometimes for just a line or two at a time, so it seems friendly to the audience to make sure I make clear and strong choices and lean deeply into those choices with each character turn.

Herbert Pocket:











Herbert is Pip’s true and loyal friend.  He is highly educated and cultured, so with Herbert I have focused the most on speaking with proper high-class British elocution.  But he also needs to be accessible and likable, so I’ve placed him in a higher register and I always give him a smile to keep him warm.

Mr. Wopsle:











If there is a clown in this play, Mr. Wopsle is probably it.  He is a provincial man with grandiose ambitions.  I’ve given him a bit of a crooked eyebrow-y smile, and an artificially deep resonant affectation.  When I speak I’m conjuring a little Sam the Eagle from the Muppets and Ted Baxter from the Mary Tyler Moore Show…only British.

The Coachman:











I literally say 5 or 6 words as the Coachman.  Years of whiskey and cigars, gravelly and rough and lower class.  A Cockney Tom Waits.

The Sergeant:  He’s an imposing character who interrupts Christmas dinner and hunts down convicts.  As the shortest person in the cast (by a lot), I’ve taken to leaping onto a chair as soon as I enter (Seriously, I stand on a chair so I can look down on everyone.  It totally helps).  I put my voice in as deep a resonance as I can muster without sounding fake.  He’s an authentic fellow.

10 Responses

  1. Lewis Row A Seat 3 says:

    Character changes were immediate and seamless to me. For such rapid pacing, the troupe quickly entered the meter of the scene. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed your physical comedy and howled upon the expiration of Laertes and Mr. Wopsie.

  2. Carol says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed the show last night! The cast was absolutely incredible! It was very obvious which part each actor was playing at any given time – quite a feat indeed. I must admit I was not really looking forward to seeing this play as I only remember not understanding or liking anything about Great Expectations long ago when it was required reading. I now understand the beauty and depth of the story! It was truly missed in my youth! Excellent,excellent job! Carol O’Leary

  3. Barbara Kaplan says:

    An amazing production. It never stopped surprising…or moving. Kudos to all…and especially the Arden for bringing us this wonderful evening.

  4. Mary Kane says:

    We thoroughly enjoyed Great Expectations last night. Each character was wonderful..but especially enjoyed Hara’s antics and the way actors were so carefully choreographed. Costumes and the constantly moving scenery to make the imagination stay in high gear were wonderful.
    Had a little trouble hearing some lines .

    I had to come back to look at the 1946 movie.. Wish I had checked it remember the people and story.
    Thanks Arden for another great night.


  5. Micki Goldberg says:

    We were a party of 4 and were amazed and entertained and in awe of this production. Every actor was wonderful and I couldn’t help but wish we could have met the costume designer, the set designer, the voice coach, the stage hands, etc.You get my drift.
    Extraordinary performance.
    Arden Theater. You have created a new high bar.
    Thank you.

  6. Richard & Joan Behr says:

    My wife, especially, but I also thought the staging was superb. So effortlessly done with costume and voice changes we hardly knew it was happening. The transition was brilliant and skillfully executed .We are recommending it to our friends, without hesitation. Thanks for the effort put into the production.

  7. L. Yuill says:

    I attended the performance of Great Expectations yesterday with 3 other friends. We were all delighted and so impressed. What a memorable experience which we would heartily recommend to others. The performance felt like a multifaceted jewel. Each actor shining through in an alternating prominence of entrancing characters. The audience was drawn into the light and dazzled. Thank you.

  8. Elizabeth Mosier says:

    Well done, Mr. Hara! And what an excellent, talented cast! We enjoyed ourselves immensely!

  9. Terry says:

    Just fantastic! Bravo and thanks for making this dreary winter night so enjoyable.

  10. T Mulreany says:

    To all the cast and crew of “Great Expectations”,
    What an impressive and talented cast! Our first thought at seeing the set before the show was, “Is that the whole set?”
    We were so impressed at how the cast was able to use the small amount of props to create the lasting impressions of each scene..
    There were so many vividly different persons on that stage. Each one with a different voice, different walk, attitude and demeanor! It was hard to believe there were only 6 people on the stage! Amazing, amazing talent. Thank you for such a professional production. We love the Arden!

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