Tommy Backstage - Listening to You
"Uncle Ernie"

I have to give the audience the opportunity to know this person merely by his behavior.
I don't say a thing. And that's a real challenge. There's no chance to say what you feel.
Or to have an exchange with another person where his feeling are revealed.

So everything about Uncle Ernie has to be made clear in his behavior.

Ernie has to be played as a very real character because if you make him grotesque, the drama just doesn't work. He's a man on the outside of everything- and that's how he functions, even in the blocking of the show.

He travels around the edge of most things that happen, and has no place to get in. He's not in the army because he's physically impaired by a limp, so he can't take part in a major part of the lives of young men at the time.

In direct contrast to Ernie, his brother Captain Walker, is a handsome and successful flyer who not only plays a role in the war but has a beautiful wife and can start a family and be loved. He has everything that Ernie lacks, yet Ernie unselfishly adores him.

The moment when the telegram comes to say that Captain Walker is missing is such a powerful moment because Ernie loves his brother just as much as Mrs Walker loves her husband. In my mind, these are the two people who love this one person desparately, and Ernie now feels it's his job to protect his brother's family.

But the thing that makes Ernie most interesting to play is that he is basically a good guy who does a very bad thing, and that's what makes it so affecting. It's also what brings his behavior so close to reality, because a lot of people who do this type of thing are otherwise quite nice people. I take his behavior as a distillation of all those temptations that we all have-to do something that we know is not only wrong, but that will be hurtful to people or a betrayal of them.

We all come up against an enormous tempatation at some time in our lives- a powerful force that drives us towards doing something that we now will be incredibly destructive. And, for just a moment, we feel the pull to do that thing, the lure to do something very terrible, to trespass on a treasured relationship in some way, to cheat in a marriage or betray a close family relationship. If we're honest with ourselves, we can
find something like this in our own lives.

That's what Ernie's behavior is about, and that's what Fiddle About epitomizes. I hope the fact that we approach him in a very human way makes him an accessible character-because if the audience can understand him as a human, then he's truly chilling.
-Paul Kandel, Uncle Ernie

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