Jacob Marley/Old Joe

This is my sixth year playing Jacob Marley. I love the message of the play. We always hope theater is transformative, but it’s rare to be in a production that has that ability to actually change audience members. It’s impossible not to come out of A Christmas Carol wanting to do more in the world, and be a better person.

Our performances for students often have the youngest audiences, and they just erupt and go nuts when Marley comes out. To me, the scariest thing about Marley is where he’s stuck, the kind of agony he’s in. I’ve seen some productions where Marley tries to be angry. I’m not trying to scare Scrooge; I’m trying to save him.

My wife died three years ago, and this was the first show I did after that. Larry Yando and I have been friends for years before we even did this show together, so for the last performance that year, I told him I was going to do something special for him during our scene together. He thought I was going to pull a joke. During my final line, as Marley is being dragged away by the other spirits, I started to say, “I love you.” Larry knew what I was doing, and understood. As Marley is taken away, Larry and I are usually across the stage from each other, but he ran up and touched my hand. I just fell down on my face and cried on the floor. I was such a big old baby about it, but it was this amazing moment between us.

The Marley costume is made mostly of plastic chains except for one real chain on the cash box that I throw around. That’s thanks to John Lister, the last actor who had to wear actual chains. During tech rehearsal, he was lying on a bed and almost passed out from the weight of the chains when he got up. They realized, “Oh, we don’t need that to be using real ones.” There are bits of locks and metal on the costume, so it still makes a clangy sound. I’ve been told I have the most chains of any Marley, though, and that I’ve requested the most. People are like, “I don’t want more chains,” but I’ve said, “BRING ME MORE CHAINS.” I cannot get in or out of the outfit by myself. My dresser, Colleen, and I have a whole system that we’ve gotten down to a half-hour. It used to take an hour! So I’m hoping Colleen never leaves, because she’s such a great dresser.