Last Thursday, the day before Halloween, as actor Brad Bone geared up for a scene change in “Young Frankenstein,” he found himself mentally running through his lines for his next role, in “A Christmas Carol.”
“I had to shut that out so I wouldn’t miss my cue,” he said.
For weeks, Bone has been juggling changing seasons as well as scene changes, what with rehearsals for “A Christmas Carol,” which opens Nov. 21 at the Lyric Arts Main Street Stage, and “Young Frankenstein,” the Mel Brooks comedy that just wrapped up a sold-out run at the Anoka theater.
Bone played a blind hermit and Mr. Hilltop in “Young Frankenstein.” The “goofy, crazy” hermit varies wildly from his upcoming role as Bob Cratchit, a “normal-centered person that people can relate to,” Bone said.
Although it’s a challenge to go back and forth between characters and to memorize everything, the theater has become a second home for the 41-year-old Bone.
It also represents a second chapter for him as an actor. Bone, who studied theater and dance at the University of Minnesota Duluth, once lived out of a sailboat in Los Angeles, where he did “under-fives,” or parts with five lines or less, on “The Young and the Restless.” Bone also appeared on other TV shows and commercials and worked as a model agent.
Since returning to Minnesota a decade ago with his wife, Aimee Bone, a college acquaintance who was the music coordinator for “The Young and the Restless,” Bone has been a production assistant for several home improvement shows and an art buyer. Currently, he’s in customer service at Mate Precision Tooling in Anoka. He and Aimee have two children, Derby, 9, and Stella, 6, and supporting the family became his primary concern, so acting went by the wayside.
However, when Bone drove past Lyric Arts, he started to think about returning to the stage. Earlier this year, he decided to audition for the zany, fast-paced comedy “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” It was nerve-racking but “my wife practically forced me to do it,” Bone said.
When he learned that he’d been cast in his biggest part ever, he considered bowing out. He’s glad he didn’t.
Bone played around 20 characters. The three actors in the show hadn’t read all of Shakespeare’s works, so “we were making stuff up. It was like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit that kept going. … I had the time of my life.”
Bone had gone to college with several of the people working on the production, which pulled him into Lyric Arts right away. Likewise, he’s now familiar with the theater’s layout, as well. The stage “is like walking in my living room,” he said.
And while acting in Los Angeles had become more of “a way to eat,” he said, “Lyric Arts is the outlet I’m looking for.”
Laura Tahja Johnson, the theater’s managing artistic director, said Bone has “a really great sense for dialect … He can deftly change from one to the next.”
“He’s so committed to every character he plays,” she said. Heading into “A Christmas Carol,” “I can’t wait to see the depth of what’s there.”
‘I’m all in’
Bone remembers his first audition ever, during his senior year of high school. For “Hurricane Smith and the Garden of the Golden Monkey,” he dressed up like a cross between Indiana Jones and Crocodile Dundee. He stuck out, but he landed the part.
“When I get a role, I’m all in,” he said. “I think, ‘let’s work through it and make it fun and do it right.’ ”
He has shared the stage with Brooke Shields and walked the red carpet. But he’d never worked with a live orchestra, sung a solo or played for sold-out audiences before coming to Lyric Arts.
For “Young Frankenstein,” the director gave him the freedom to run with his ideas. “That’s something I love. It’s like, ‘here you go, here’s a kernel, make it into something.’ Each night is whatever I want it to be — it might be scary for those working with me,” he said.
Now, for “A Christmas Carol,” he reads through the script in the evenings after his kids are in bed, and while his wife is studying. She’s in school for environmental science.
Every day, co-worker Kim Caouette helps him go over his lines during their lunch break. Caouette also rounds up a big group to come to the shows. “That keeps me going,” he said.
During his down time at the theater, Bone likes to practice in a private space, such as a stairwell, and “be ridiculous in front of the mirror, trying to figure out a character.”
In thinking through Bob Cratchit, Ebenezer Scrooge’s hard-pressed employee, he doesn’t want the man to be a pushover but a strong person who is trying to support his family. “I’m trying to make him as real and honest as possible,” Bone said. “That’s the toughest thing, to be real.”
As someone who has struggled financially, and done what he can to support his family, and experienced personal losses, he can relate. “I draw on that, and how much my kids mean to me,” he said.
Playing to his strengths
Daniel Ellis, the director of “A Christmas Carol,” said “he’s found a nice backbone for Cratchit. He shows us a man who is unfortunately in a position of where he is societally.”
Bone knows how to “find that place where there’s some glimmer of hope, of happiness,” he said.
It takes a charismatic actor to “allow the audience to be part of the story,” to feel Bob Cratchit’s sorrow at the loss of Tiny Tim, yet “not letting us feel he is a broken man,” Ellis said.
“Young Frankenstein” director Matt McNabb first saw Bone in “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).” Right away, he knew he wanted to cast him. Bone “was super funny. The show played to his strengths, with the multiple roles and improvisation,” he said.
Bone was able to improvise through various glitches, such as a candle going out before he could use it.
Bone is such a warm person that “you’re predisposed to like him. It gives him a lot of stage presence,” McNabb said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.