Friday, November 30, 2018

Ukiah woman floats on stage as the Ghost of Christmas Past

Dell Linney as the Ghost Of Christmas Past. (Photo by Chris Pugh)
We took my mother-in-law to see "A Christmas Carol" at the Ukiah Players Theatre, and all our trio wanted to talk about after the show was the woman playing the Ghost of Christmas Past, who looked like she was floating on stage as she kept her arms in constant motion.

That was cool.

Ukiah High graduate Dell Linney played the ghost, and said her flowing white outfit was designed to make her look like a floating candle, with her arms evoking its "smoky, flickering" flames. The plan worked, and I marveled at how long, and seemingly effortlessly, she kept moving her arms.

"I try to keep doing different motions," said Linney, explaining that it is when you do the same movements over and over that your muscles really get tired. "The arm movement is something that I could always do, but I practiced to be able to maintain it for the play."

Linney said she never timed the sequences she shows Scrooge from his past to see exactly how long she had to keep her arms in motion, but "we did rehearse over and over. And once it became normal to constantly be moving, I could put it on the back burner in my head and focus on the emotional delivery in the scenes."

And it helps that "our Scrooge is so fun to act opposite and tease and patronize," she continued. She indeed had good chemistry with Chris Douthit's Scrooge, answering all of his increasingly frenetic energy with a stern calm that pokes and prods him until he admits the truth.

As for her flowing white outfit, Linney said her costume was imagined by director Jenny Peterman, who wanted "to create an interpretation as similar to the book as possible."

Linney's ghost appears to float on the UPT stage.   (Photo by Chris Pugh - Ukiah Daily Journal)

Another cool aspect Linney brought to the stage was a live turkey to stand in for the Christmas goose Scrooge has delivered to Bob Cratchit. 

"I bring him because he's the most tame," she said of the six-year-old Heritage turkey who plays Brother Turkey, explaining that her family raises the birds to sell as breeding pairs, not for meat.

But the turkey can't be brought into the theater until his big reveal, because "he will 'gobble' when he gets startled, like when something loud happens on stage."

Before she went on stage as the ghost, Linney said she hadn't really danced, "but the last few years (working with the theater) has helped me learn that I actually enjoy expressing something with physicality."

Watch a video of Dell at work, featuring cymbal swells by the awesome and gracious drummer Buck August.