David Coffee first appeared as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” at North Shore Music Theatre 20 years ago. But as familiar as Coffee has become in the role, there is plenty about this actor that local audiences may not know.
For example, he hails from Arlington, Texas, and first played Scrooge in 1973, long before his first appearance in Beverly. And for the last five years Coffee has supplemented Dickens with Shakespeare, appearing at the Trinity Shakespeare Festival at Texas Christian University.
Coffee spoke with The Salem News recently about his theatrical past, present and future.
Where is Arlington, exactly?
Arlington is smack dab between between Dallas and Fort Worth. The original Six Flags amusement park is there, and the ballpark where the Texas Rangers play, and the Dallas Cowboys are there.
I heard recently that Texas accents are disappearing. Do you think that’s true?
It depends where you are. When I was growing up, you could tell somebody from Dallas and somebody from Fort Worth, though they’re only 30 miles apart. Dallas, as Will Rogers famously wrote, is where the East peters out, and Fort Worth is where the West begins. Dallas sounded like the old South; they dropped their r’s.
Your accent disappears when you play Scrooge.
I definitely do my British dialect.
How did you first start playing Scrooge at North Shore Music Theatre?
I had come up here with two shows from Texas. Back then we were co-producing shows with our old theater in Texas, Casa Manana, which was also a theater in the round — now it’s a thrust theater. I came up with two productions, we did “Phantom” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”
While we were doing “Singin’ in the Rain,” they put a notice on the board that they were having auditions for “A Christmas Carol.” I thought I’d go back home and audition for another play, but Jon Kimbell, the producer and director at the theater, saw I had toured back in the ’80s, I had played Scrooge before, so he asked me to come in and read.