By Brian Robin
The Journey Continues for Nick Slimmer
When you get to the heart of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, you realize it’s a travelogue-meets-morality tale. It’s the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey from ill-tempered miser to generous and kind benefactor. He doesn’t leave London, yet his journey covers plenty of distance.
But drill down deeper to some of SCR’s cast members and you realize Scrooge isn’t the only one on a journey. He has plenty of fellow travelers.
Like Nick Slimmer.
Slimmer’s A Christmas Carol journey sort of mirrors that of his mentor, director Hisa Takakuwa. She spent 14 years in the cast, before becoming assistant director under John-David Keller, then took the reins last year.
In Slimmer’s case, he made his debut as Peter Cratchit in 2007. After taking a break to go to school, he returned in 2018 to play Thomas Shelley, the down-on-his-luck patriarch staring at homelessness. This year, he's evolved further into playing both Shelley and the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come. And like Takakuwa once did, Slimmer added the assistant director title to his credits this year.
“To watch him grow as a person and see how he’s growing into this role is beautiful,” Takakuwa said. “Part of the joy in A Christmas Carol is to grow into roles and evolve into different roles and Nick’s no different. To see him start to understand what it means to be a father and have responsibilities for a young son, you see that his path of understanding is different now. … He’s maturing as a person. His life experiences are influencing his choices as an artist.”
Slimmer hasn’t missed a step on the journey. As Shelley, he brings the same bedraggled, pity-inducing, persona he first brought to the role in 2018. But playing the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, Slimmer brought an athleticism and physical bravery—as Takakuwa called it—to a deceptively complex role.
Playing that role requires an actor to don a costume with limited visibility, take command of the stage and deliver an unmistakable message—all without uttering a word.
“He’s ready to do it and I was really thrilled to give him that opportunity as an actor,” Takakuwa said.
“It’s an honor to be such an influential character in the story. He’s the final step in Scrooge’s journey. He’s the pivot point,” Slimmer said about the character. “He’s literally making Scrooge look death in the face. This is the moment. This is what will happen to you. That scene at the graveyard, showing how he will end up is such powerful imagery.
“… It’s an incredible honor. As far as my job as an actor and storyteller, I’m trying to convey this ominous presence. That’s what Dickens is trying to do by not having him speak or guide him through like the other ghosts. Those are almost like therapy sessions, but ‘Yet to Come’ doesn’t give him a chance to talk it out. There’s no sounding board. It’s ‘This is what your future is.’ He’s holding up a mirror to Scrooge and having him look.”
When Slimmer holds a mirror to his first season as Peter Cratchit, he sees that journey start with a young boy—Slimmer was 13—who was in awe of everything around him.
“I remember learning the secret of how the ghosts work and seeing all the backstage things,” he said. “You feel like you’re a part of this amazing thing that you are so lucky to be in. Coming back as an adult, it’s a learning experience and a totally different learning experience. You have a lot more freedom to explore your character.
“The thing that stuck out to me the most is the community you build in the show, especially being a Cratchit. You really join a family, which is really fun. I remember Daniel Blinkhoff and Jenny Parsons, who played my parents welcoming me in the family. Being around adult actors for the first time in a professional production and having that influence you as an actor, it’s a big honor being a kid and jumping into a production like that. I had those people around me making it fun.”
Now, Slimmer takes the young actors down the same path. As assistant director, he is the primary point person for the 16 young actors in the cast. He is equal parts mentor, big brother and artistic Sherpa. Takakuwa used him as a sounding board during the casting process and relies on him as a second set of trusted eyes on all the show’s elements.
Also, he knows all of the young actors through his day job as Conservatory and Educational Programs Associate, which made this path on his journey a no-brainer for Takakuwa.
“For him to be involved helping shape and guide the show, working with the young actors, is something he was ready to do,” Takakuwa said. “We take the idea of passing the torch really seriously. We honor the sense of legacy and passing the knowledge to the next generation. He already has relationships with a lot of the kids in the show and that’s really special.”