It’s certainly big shoes to fill playing James Stewart’s George Bailey in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but how about playing all 36 roles of the Bedford Falls residents — everyone from guardian angel Clarence to Mary to Mr. Potter?
That’s exactly what one local actor, Doug Schutte — who also serves as The Bard’s Town’s artistic director — plans to do when he brings the one-man show “This Wonderful Life” to his venue’s stage starting Friday, Nov. 16.
The comedic adaptation was written by Steve Murray in 2005, and this marks the first time it’ll be produced in Kentucky.
Schutte tells Insider he decided to take on the show because it’s been something he’s wanted to do for some time, and he’s been looking for a challenge.
“All too often, I find myself having to focus on the mundane here at The Bard,” he says. “I wanted something that would require my artistic focus. Plus, it’s about a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman who is deaf in one ear. It’s like it was written for me.”
It doesn’t hurt that Schutte has been a fan of the 1946 Frank Capra film as long as he can remember.
“I have always been a big fan of that classic period of studio films, and an even bigger fan of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed,” he says. “For someone like me — who constantly questions if he’s actually done anything with his life — the film tends to re-ignite my spark.”
He believes the film’s popularity continues for two reasons. First, it’s on TV all the time during the holidays, and second, because it has a great message that resonates.
“I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it isn’t about Christmas, really, but about the spirit of the season — the way family (and our extended families that include our lifelong friends) is there for us in our darkest hours. Redemption. The resurrection of our spirit to live. It inspires,” says Schutte.
Of course, the play is an abridged version of the film, but there are still pages and pages of lines to memorize and characters to embody. It’s a task Schutte is more than ready for.
“As an acting teacher, I have often passed along a few (quite effective) ways to memorize lines. What’s funny is that I have never employed those techniques when learning lines for one of my own projects,” he explains. “For me, it’s simply to immerse myself in the script, spend a lot of time with it, and use specific movements to connect the dots.”
Schutte has been public about his struggles with running The Bard’s Town on social media, often asking regulars of the venue if he should relocate the business, revamp the current space or just close altogether.
The response often favors the “keep it going” route, as the venue offers a great opportunity and space for not only smaller theater companies but also standup comedians, musicians and artists.
For Schutte, he’ll keep it going as long as there’s an audience.
“The current plan is to just focus on making the current home a better home and the best place we can make it for our guests,” he says. “I’ve already begun a number of remodeling projects and updates. Then I want to revisit the idea of possibly finding a new space as 2019 rolls along.”
Catch Schutte on stage in “This Wonderful Life,” running Nov. 16-18, 23-25, 29-30 and Dec. 1. All performances begin at 7:30 p.m., and tickets are $18 in advance or $20 at the door. The Bard’s Town is located at 1801 Bardstown Road.