PORTSMOUTH — If you’re headed to Trinity Repertory Co.’s 40th annual production of its timeless holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol,” you might see a familiar face on stage.
Jack Hollen, a seventh-grader at Portsmouth Middle School, plays the part of Peter Cratchit, the oldest son of Ebenezer Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid clerk, Bob Cratchit.
Jack is the son of Kimberly and Jay Hollen of Common Fence Point. He has a 17-year-old sister, Maddy, a dancer who’s involved in theatrical productions at Portsmouth High School.
Jack takes his acting seriously. Although only 12, he already has his sights set on studying theater at New York University. We chatted with him Monday about his first appearance on a professional stage and his whirlwind schedule that takes him from stage to stage, with school in between.
When did you first get the acting bug? “When I was 10 years old I took a class with Newport Children’s Theatre called ‘Prep for Rep’ and I loved it from there on out. We got to make up our scene and we performed it going through the woods and had people come there. It was a lot of fun.”
How did you get this part? “I went to Cardi’s Furniture at the end of September for the audition, after my mom saw the ad on Facebook. There were hundreds of kids and it was so nerve-racking. I went in with a group of kids and sang for about 30 seconds and read some lines. It was a cold read, which means I just got the lines right there. During the callback, we got a whole book of lines that we could possibly be reading from. I actually only practiced for Peter, because that’s who I wanted. A couple of days later I got the call that I was Peter.”
Why did you want the part of Peter? “I think it was a fairly good part. I wasn’t going in there looking for a huge role, but all of the leads have a fair amount of lines.”
What’s your schedule been like? “The rehearsals began in the beginning of October. It was every single day except for Mondays and that’s how it is now with the shows. When rehearsals started out they were about an hour, then they went to two hours, then four. There were a few previews before the actual performances started on Nov. 9. My last show is Dec. 30. There are 37 shows and most of them are at night.”
Were you nervous before the first show? “A little bit. I had to drink some water to get through it, but now it’s so easy.”
I understand there are two casts — the Ivy and the Green. “Yes, and I’m in the Green cast. All of the adult characters don’t have doubles; they perform all the shows. The kids share (the roles) because if they didn’t, our lives would be so crazy. We’d miss so much school. I’m missing about nine days now, but if there wasn’t a second cast I’d miss 18.”
Have you been in any productions at school? “I was in ‘The Lion King’ and played Young Simba, which was the biggest role I’d ever gotten thus far. I’m also in another Portsmouth Middle School production, ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and I play Lumière. That’s going to be in March.”
You’re in rehearsals for that show as well? “Yes, but it’s right after school for an hour and then I have an hour at home before I go straight to Trinity, so I can handle both.”
That’s a long day, though. “Homework is the really hard thing about it. Making up the work is hard. I’ve been up to almost 1 (a.m.) most nights.”
How many lines do you have? “A little over 15. Simba had over 100, which is crazy. For this one, it’s not a lot of lines but I’m in the show a lot. All the characters — including the adults, except for Scrooge — they have one lead role and then they play a bunch of ensemble parts. I have a couple lines through those, too. I have about five costume changes.”
Have you made friends there? “Yes. All the kids are super-nice and we’re all close. We’re pretty close with the adults, too, but it’s not the same because we’re not with them all the time.”
You must know that Trinity has an excellent, national reputation. “Yeah. In the movie, ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ the kid who played Rowley (Robert Capron) started his career at Trinity in ‘A Christmas Carol.’”
What’s your overall reaction to this experience? “It’s so much fun. I had never done a professional show before. All the elevators, the trap doors — everything is so big.”
What do you feel when you’re on the stage? “Energy. Off stage I’m pretty tired a lot because I haven’t gotten much sleep lately. On stage, you have so much energy and the crowd is all so excited, especially in December when almost every show is a full house.”