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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, November 28 - Volume 42 Issue 48
The man behind the Grinch
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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The man behind the Grinch

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN A&E Writer

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
PARAMOUNT THEATRE
December 2-7


How the Grinch Stole Christmas is perhaps one of the most beloved traditions of the holiday season. Going from child's book to classic cartoon, it has now become a full-length movie and stage musical. Stefan Karl is the man playing the famously green monster, and he took time out of his holiday schedule to chat with the Seattle Gay News.

Eric Andrews-Katz: Who were your earliest influences in becoming a performer?

Stefan Karl: That was Charlie Chaplin. I loved Charlie Chaplin, and Buster Keaton, and Laurel & Hardy and all of those old great comedians. Then I got to know Dick Van Dyke and Jim Carrey as performers and realized that basic comedy was what I really loved.

Andrews-Katz: Growing up in Iceland, how did the theater bug get introduced to your life?

Karl: That was very early on in my life. We have a very strong community theater in Iceland. Almost every town, down to the smallest fisherman town, has a community theater where people would come after work and either see or do a play. Usually it was a comedy or farce. In 1988 I got introduced to theater in my hometown. In 1989 they opened a teenager division where only teens would come together and do theater. That's how it all started for me.

Andrews-Katz: You've performed a variety of theater on stage. Do you prefer musicals or straight plays, classic or contemporary and why?

Karl: I don't categorize myself as anything except just a human being. All of these methods, whether it's a musical or straight play, it's all a challenge. And I love challenges. At theater school I thought I'd never do musical theater. I thought I never could do musical theater. I never thought I could do Chekov, or Shakespeare, or The Greeks, but I've done it all and I think it went well. If I like the story and can relate to the story and character, then I feel I can do it.

Andrews-Katz: How do you relate to the Grinch?

Karl: I am a Grinch. I am definitely a Grinch. The Grinch is rather complicated. I think there is a Grinch in all of us. The Christmas craziness, Black Friday, frustrates us or whatever you want to call [that feeling of craziness], it's just bizarre. When the story was originally written, right after the Second World War, we had The American Dream. Everyone wanted to buy stuff. People went nuts buying stuff that we don't need. These megastores are all full of stuff we don't need. Most of us start to feel it when we see the first of the holiday decorations - that's usually mid-October nowadays. When it finally comes to this moment of Christmas Night and Christmas Day that's when we relax and realize that we only need each other - not all that 'stuff.' That's where our hearts grow three sizes.

Andrews-Katz: You've created the role of Robbie Rotten on 'LazyTown' both on stage and now on the television series. Can you tell us a little bit about 'LazyTown' and your character on the show?

Karl: A friend of mine created 'LazyTown,' and he approached me in 1998 with the musical. It was a great opportunity. I wanted to work in physical comedy and I worked with the character from scratch. He gave me hints as to what he wanted, and where the character wanted to go. I went with my childhood and thought what villains always got me to laugh. The obvious choice is Wile E. Coyote. Coyote is what I looked at by watching him over and over again. He's never actually violent towards the Road Runner because he is the one that always ends up getting caught in his own trap.

Andrews-Katz: Tell our readers a little bit about Rainbow Children - an organization you founded to face school bullying.

Karl: I founded that in 2002 before all the Bullying Projects started up all over. I felt that there was no one talking about it and no one was doing anything about it. It was one of these things that kids were NOT talking about. I was associated with the Gay community early in my life, and I saw how they got hit very hard by bullying. Children of Gay parents especially get it. I started helping out by talking and giving lectures and trying to help people get over their fears. We are all human beings and how we should be living in society is in harmony. We are very much about human rights. Back in Reykjavik, every year we have hundreds of people celebrating Gay Pride, not only Gay people! We look at it as a pride of all people; we are all colors of the rainbow. We are all different and that's what is beautiful!

Andrews-Katz: You play several instruments including piano, drums and accordion. Which is your favorite and for what reasons?

Karl: I love playing the drums because they are loud! I want to be in charge of the rhythm. I like the drums and always have. My life is about timing. Besides, Animal was my favorite character on 'The Muppets.'

Andrews-Katz: What was your audition for The Grinch like?

Karl: It was weird, as I've never had to do a real audition for American theater before this. My agent called and said he thought I'd be perfect for The Grinch. I walked into the casting office not knowing anyone and saw all these actors that seemed to know each other. I thought to myself, 'What am I doing? I have no chance of getting this.' So I just relaxed and let it go as I walked into the office. I put my heart into the audition and they were all laughing their asses off, so that made me relax a little more. I had a fun time with it and got the callback phone call on the way to the airport.

Andrews-Katz: With the cartoon being so iconic and Jim Carey being so unique, how do you make the role of The Grinch your own?

Karl: At first it was stressful because everyone knows this character and everyone has his or her own memory. What I did was to read the book many times and watch the cartoon over and over. It wasn't until I connected with it in my own way that I found my inner Grinch. There are certain things you have to respect, of course, but then you can make it your own. There's a fine line.

Andrews-Katz: Is it true this is the only production approved by the estate of Dr. Seuss?

Karl: Yes, it is! We are very true to the book and cartoon. We use the same colors, black and white, pink and red. The green is the Grinch - and he didn't become green until the cartoon in the 1960s. Being true to the book and character helps me a lot.

Andrews-Katz: If you could play any role - regardless of any limitation - what would it be and why?

Karl: That's a tough one. There are really two complicated answers - none and everything! I don't have a dream role, really. I could name any villain character. For some reason, I have always wanted to play the bad guy in a James Bond movie. That has nothing to do with the payments, but it has to do with the fact that I hate how bad guys are always played stereotypical - bad Russians or whatever. You don't get to see the human factor of these guys.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas will be playing for a limited time in Seattle. Don't miss the chance to see this holiday classic on stage.

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