When Lars Johnson put on his clothes and cosmetics before Shimbleshanks took the stage, something magical happened.
“Entering makeup, clothing and wigs definitely requires a lot of work, but it does add extra feeling to the character,” Johnson talks about his role in making “cats” at the Kearney Community Theatre.
The actor recalled the first makeup in the rehearsal.
“Take yourself and others with your own cat face, which really makes it a completely different performance,” he said. “After putting on clothes and wigs, I tend to forget who I am and who else, because no one looks like myself.”
The production of award-winning musicals continues at the Kearney Community Theatre at 7:30 pm. Today to Saturday and 2 pm Sunday. Tickets for the show are $18.
“Cat” is often described as a musical, with a series of episodes about the role of cats. The show premiered in London in 1981. The Kearney Community Theatre has 29 performers.
Johnson described his character as a cat who admired the orderly world.
“Shimbleshanks is one of the old cats,” he said. “He is a very cheerful and friendly Tomcat compared to other people. He works on railroad trains all over England. He likes to be methodical.”
Although the clothing contributes to Johnson’s character, excessive makeup and extra layer of discomfort may make the actor’s performance uncomfortable.
“It’s very hot to wear these clothes,” he said. “The wigs are all made of yarn, so your head is very hot. The spandex is suitable for a wool vest with an arm warmer and a leg warmer – plus a touch of makeup to cover the pores – it is very hot under the stage lighting. You really noticed it.”
The design of the garment prevents the staff from washing the actor’s clothes.
“Of course, we are not the best cats,” Johnson laughed. “In order to make the garment look like fur, the clothing staff uses Sharpie to add detail and accent. Washing clothes will make it all exhausted and look like it should. So, Febreze fabrics let us move on.”
Makeup, so close to his eyes, occasionally causes problems for Johnson.
“Sometimes I am on the stage, because of makeup, my vision will become cloudy,” he said. “You just have to move on and pretend that there is nothing wrong.”
His creative approach makes the “cat” unique to Johnson.
“It’s all about body movements and movements,” he said. “You shape your character by visualizing yourself rather than how to speak or say your lines. For each cat, distinguishing other cats is how the character moves.”
When asked if he thought he was a cat, Johnson replied: “Of course. I grew up with cats all my life. I grew up in a ranch, so I was surrounded by farm cats. Now I live in Cole. Ni, I have a cat of my own. There is a cat that can help a lot of shows. Sometimes I will look at my cat, I will notice some of her things, how she has her own.”
Johnson used these habits to help define his character. ”
“I used to think, ‘I can use it in some way for the show,’” he said. “I think I thank her by name in the character creature.”
At the end of the “cat”, Johnson plans to move to Lincoln.
“I still want to continue to perform and pursue drama,” said Johnson, a recent graduate of the University of Nebraska at Kearney University. “In any case, whether through a community theater or more, I want to do this.”