CATCH UP WITH 8 TIMS FROM ALLIANCE THEATRE STAGINGS. ONE HAS GROWN TO 6-FOOT-3. ONE IS ON BROADWAY. ALL AGREE THAT PLAYING THE ROLE WAS A VERY BIG DEAL.
The 2016 edition of “A Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 25-Dec. 24 at the Alliance Theatre. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.733.5000.
“GOD BLESS US, EVERYONE.”
Tiny Tim, the sweet but sickly Cratchit boy, delivers perhaps the most memorable line in the Dickens holiday classic.
While the 1843 story centers on the redemption of nasty old Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim is its beating heart, representing the goodness that the miserly Scrooge so seriously lacks.
The role of 6-year-old Tim Tim isn’t huge. But it’s a big deal for the young actors who’ve carried his signature crutch and spoken his memorable lines on the Alliance Theatre stage.
When Nicholas Sanders won the part in 2011, “he absolutely thought it was the biggest role in the show,” his mom, Courtney Sanders, says with a laugh.
It’s a role that not just any kid shy of 4-foot-4 can play. Tim is emotionally mature for his age and size, which is why the boy cast is often a smidge older than 6.
When looking for Tim, director Rosemary Newcott says she seeks a certain “quality.” She wants a small person with “soulful” eyes, who is able to “understand the journey that is Tim’s journey.”
She questions potential Tiny Tims at auditions, so she can learn “about the heart standing in front of me, and the child’s understanding of giving.”
This year — the Alliance’s 27th A Christmas Carol and Newcott’s 17th —Marco Schittone, 9, plays Tiny Tim. He was in the Alliance’s world premiere of Tuck Everlasting in 2015, and went with the show to Broadway. He “has a radiance and intelligence about him that belie his years,” Newcott says.
Follow us now to Christmas Carols past and get reacquainted with a Tiny Tim or two you might remember.
SCHAFER GRAY | 1997-98
Then: Schafer was 7 when he first played Tim and didn’t realize the weight of the role until he saw a newspaper story headlined: “Alliance Theatre has found its Tiny Tim.” He’ll never forget those words.
- Now: He’s 26 and a graduate of the University of Georgia, where he majored in religion. He lives in Mableton, works as an anesthesia technician at Northside Hospital and plans to become a physician’s assistant. Years ago he swapped acting for music. He’s the drummer for an alt-rock-folk band called Amsterdam Station, which plays around metro Atlanta.
- On playing Tim: “It brought confidence to me at such a young age, to know that I have something that could bring people a lot of joy. It was impressed upon me that it was an important role and I took it seriously at the time — as seriously as a 7-year-old could.”
- A highlight: “I loved experiencing the inner workings of a large theater. A backstage technician showed me the big caldron full of hot water and dry ice used to fill the stage with fog. I was mesmerized.”
EVAN O’REILLY | 2000
Then: Evan, 6-foot-3 today, was in second grade when he played Tim. He’s from a family of actors. His parents, Teresa DeBerry and Allen O’Reilly, met in the 1980s as Alliance Theatre interns.
- Now: Evan, 23, graduated from Drew University in New Jersey with a psychology major and theater minor. He waits tables to pay bills. Although his theater focus has shifted to writing and directing, his big goal is a music career.
- On playing Tim: “I think I was a pretty cute kid. I had big eyes and a big head. I liked being part of such a big production at a young age. It made me want to learn how everything else in the theater works. Once you have the theater bug, it’s hard to shake,” he says. The desire to act has never left, but “adult pressures can get in your way. When you’re a kid, you don’t begin to understand the obstacles. At 7 and 8 years old, it was the easiest thing in the world, with girls wanting my autograph. I wish I could be as carefree now about it as I was when I was as a little kid.”
CHAS CRAWFORD | 2002
Then: Chas had a tiny role in a play about Julius Caesar while in third grade at Pace Academy and caught the eye of the school principal, who knew the Alliance needed a Tim. No one in his family had ever done theater. “Gosh, I was so nervous,” he recalls. “I had never auditioned before, and my mom kept telling me to relax. I had to sing ‘Away in a Manger.’ ”
- Now: Chas, 23, graduated from the University of Colorado Boulder with a degree in theater performance. He lives in Denver, where he sells computer software to earn a living and saves so he can concentrate on acting later. He has done commercials and film work, including a role as the evil leader of a street gang in an hour-long independent film called The Restless. He considers that his best work to date.
- On playing Tim: “It helped me learn how to be present in the moment.” That year, Kenny Leon played Scrooge and Chris Kayser was Marley. A powerful memory: watching Leon going over his lines. “I watched him from the sidelines as he repeated them over and over. It was a great lesson, and the image never left me.”
- Kids will be kids: Kids in the show liked to go underneath the trap door onstage right before Marley’s entrance. “I’ll never forget goofing off down there and watching Chris take a drag on a cigarette because he wanted smoke to come out of his mouth as he came up.”
BRYCE GOLSEN | 2003
Then: Bryce had never auditioned before. “I was very, very scared because I was never a very social kid. I was small, shy, not confident.” He remembers other kids being “overly enthusiastic, while I was this quiet, level-headed kid, small and meek. And I think they needed small and meek.”
- Now: Bryce, 22, is a pre-veterinarian biology major at Emory University, hoping to attend vet school at the University of Georgia. His dream job: to work with pandas. “I did some more acting and dancing after I played Tiny Tim,” he says. “I saw it as an unusual hobby as a kid and liked the attention, but as I got deeper into the industry, I realized it wasn’t for me. It’s not all puppies and rainbows.”
TENDAL MANN | 2005-07
Then: Tendal played Tim for three years and was succeeded by younger brother Royce. At 9, Tendal earned praise as Dill in Theatrical Outfit’s To Kill a Mockingbird. The Mann brothers, the sons of theater pros Sheri Mann Stewart and Barry Stewart Mann, continue to act in theater, film and commercials.
- Now: Tendal, 18, is taking a gap year and traveling before he enters Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., where he plans to continue acting and study psychology and philosophy.
- On playing Tim: “I always thought I got the role because I was a cute kid, and because I went into it without pressure or expectations. I was just natural. I liked the attention I got as one of the stars of the show, but looking back, I also think the fact that Tiny Tim comes from an impoverished background and has a disability helped open my eyes at a young age — to not always just be thinking of myself.”
ROYCE MANN | 2008-10
Then: Royce’s acting career began at age 7 with Tiny Tim, and has never let up. “I remember jumping up and down and screaming when we got the call that they were casting me. Like all younger brothers, I wanted to do what my older brother did.”
- Now: Royce, 15, is a student at Atlanta’s Paideia School and also loves sports (especially baseball), writing and filmmaking. The role represents “the heart, the soul, the overall meaning and spirit of the show,” he says. “It’s a wonderful character — someone I hope to embody.”
- On playing Tim: He rehearsed “God bless us, everyone” over and over because he wanted to do it a little different than his brother. “I liked playing someone who has gone through so many setbacks that I haven’t but always seems to find the bright side of things. Tiny Tim is so young, but he already knows about empathy, love and compassion and has so many wonderful qualities that many adults don’t even have.”
NICHOLAS SANDERS | 2011
Then: Nicholas gives his mom partial credit for winning the role — she sent him into the audition dressed as Tiny Tim. “I was not going for it. I thought that was just going to make me look crazy,” he says. But it turned out to be his lucky charm. “After I sang for them, we walked back to our car, but they were already calling us back into the theater to see if I was light enough for the older Cratchit boy to carry me.”
- Now: Playing Tim at age 10 “put me on my career path,” says Nicholas, who’s 15 and a sophomore at the DeKalb School of the Arts. He’s most recently played multiple roles in Shuddersome: Tales of Poe, one-acts prepared for high school theater competitions. He plans to study acting in college.
- A Tiny Tim memory: Nicholas began each show by entering with the actors playing his parents. At one performance, the trap door they crossed over had not been properly closed. “But my ‘mother’ noticed, and she grabbed me and led me around it, keeping me safe. That’s what it was like. We were like a family. I have your back, you have my back.”
MORGAN GAO | 2012
Then: When Morgan auditioned for A Christmas Carol, he didn’t have a resume or know what a headshot was, but playing Tiny Tim “sparked my acting career,” he says. In short order, he had an agent and a manager.
- Now: Morgan, now an 11-year-old sixth-grader at the Lovett School, is on Broadway in Holiday Inn, The New Irving Berlin Musical, playing Charlie Winslow, whom he describes as “precocious, straightforward, smart and practical but oddly charming.” Morgan’s the only kid in the show and has his own dressing room.
- On playing Tiny Tim: “It was my favorite Christmas season ever!” Even though Tim has it tough, “he keeps believing,” says Morgan, “and always sees the good side of his surroundings. He makes everyone around him joyous.”