INDIANAPOLIS — Ted Jacobs, drama director at Greenfield-Central High School, can be found most afternoons in front of the stage, encouraging young thespians in the art of the theater. In an average year, Jacobs’ drama program consists of four or five productions.
But this holiday season finds him onstage at Theatre on the Square in the narrator role many will recognize: Grown-up Ralphie recounting a most memorable Christmas – the year he got a Red Ryder BB gun.
This live stage version of “A Christmas Story” is based on the movie of the same name, which follows the story of Ralphie and his lovingly dysfunctional family, just trying to survive the holidays — ugly outfits, failed dinners, curse words and all.
Recently, Jacobs talked with the Daily Reporter about stepping on stage as part of this beloved holiday tale.
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Q. What was it about “A Christmas Story” that appealed to you?
“A Christmas Story” is a hilarious adaptation of my life! I grew up in northern Indiana and actually lived this life. If you saw pictures of me when I was a little kid, I even looked like Ralphie. I wanted — and got — a BB gun; I had an Aunt Clara, though she didn’t send me pink bunny pajamas (I’m not saying I wouldn’t have worn them); I had a painful crush on a certain fourth-grader named Candy; and I was mercilessly picked on by a certain group of kids. So when I heard that the director was going to be Dan Scharbrough, I couldn’t help but audition. Dan is one of my favorite people in the world, and after doing “The Music Man” here in Greenfield (with the Ricks-Weil Theatre Company in 2014) with him, I couldn’t help but audition.
Q. You’re known for your singing voice and usually appear in musicals. “A Christmas Story” is a play with no music. Has it been different?
Hugely different. In this production, I’m on stage the whole time. I never leave except at intermission, so I don’t have time to review my lines between times I’m on stage. Additionally, in full-length plays, the scenes are longer.
In musicals, the scenes, I believe, are a means to get to the music, which makes them shorter, and since there’ s music, it’s often easier to memorize, since you’re using multiple parts of your brain.
I love musicals. There’s no question about it. I think I’m a reasonable singer, but this show has such a great reputation and wonderful message that it was a no-brainer for me to want to be in it.
Q. You’re usually the director. What’s it like to be directed?
I love being directed. When you’ve directed as many shows as I have at Greenfield-Central High School, you kind of get pigeon-holed as a director.
Oftentimes, people think directors have all the answers. I know I don’t, and I hate that people think that. I try to keep my opinions to myself and go along for the experience. Sometimes, I interject if I feel that the director is stumped or is looking for an idea or blatantly asks, but otherwise, I try to be as respectful of someone else’s ideas as I can. Honestly, I am just humbled by being asked to audition and then to be given a part. It’s still thrilling.
Q. Which do you like better: directing or acting?
I’m not sure. I’m a teacher first, so remembering what it’s like to be a performer really helps my perspective for when I direct students. Too often, I believe, we get caught up in the role of being an actor, techie or director and lose sight of the other roles. If I’m doing my job right, I’m learning from experiences like these and am becoming a better teacher because of it. That’s my goal. However, I’m a performer at heart, so performing — and in doing so, making someone smile or laugh — is really endearing to me. So, in short, the answer is that I really like performing more than directing — most of the time!
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You can see Ted Jacobs and the rest of the cast in “A Christmas Story” through Dec. 23 at Theatre on the Square, 627 Massachusetts Ave. Visit tots.org for ticket information.