On first impression, cinema student George Arnold is the Missouri Western equivalent to Jeff Spicoli; however, the former Marine embodies more than the laid-back attitude he projects.
Director Dallas Henry said Arnold exemplifies dedication and an impeccable work ethic that has served him well on his most recent undertaking, his debut role as Alan Raleigh in “God of Carnage.”
“George is definitely a really hard worker and that is what you want,” said Henry. “Being his first time on the stage, everything was new to him so it was definitely a fast pace for him, as far as catching up to speed with everyone else, so he’s done great.”
Henry, who Arnold admits has been a mentor to him since he started in the Theatre and Cinema program at Western, had to inspire Arnold to elevate his acting.
“Dallas pulled me into his office, I think it was last Monday [Feb. 11] and he’s like, ‘I don’t know what to do with you; you’re like a loose cannon up there. I don’t know how to direct you.’ And that really killed me because Dallas is my mentor,” Arnold said. “Seriously, I mean it really hit home as in, ‘Holy shit, I’m really letting this guy down.’ And the very next day, I brought it. I mean, I had to.”
While Arnold has grown comfortable onstage, he had to overcome several challenges during the play’s rehearsals. Arnold said the whole process was difficult, but memorizing lines was the most tedious and demanding aspect of having a leading role.
“It’s a matter of continually pounding and pounding it into your head until you can do it with your eyes closed, until you can hear it in your head,” Arnold said. “And that’s really, I think, when it started to click is once we got up on the stage and started to go through it. I remember lying in bed one night, I could hear Robin [Ussher’s] voice in my head, and that’s when it finally started to sink in.”
Ussher, who plays Alan Raleigh’s wife, Annette, said that she has enjoyed watching Arnold grow as an actor, and shared the unique qualities Arnold brings to the cast of “Carnage.”
“He’s very at ease, he’s very laid back as a person,” Ussher said. “His character, even though his character is a lawyer, he’s kind of more calm, cool and collected than the others and he only ever raises his temper when the time calls for it. He really fits into that well and plus there’s a maturity that he can bring to his role.”
Arnold may have adjusted to becoming Alan Raleigh onstage, but he said that he has little in common with his character.
“Alan Raleigh is an extremely professional corporate lawyer. Very self-assured, very businesslike and very calculated,” Arnold said. “You know, your typical upper echelon lawyer and I’m really pretty laid-back, easy going and relaxed. I’m the exact opposite of Alan Raleigh.”
Arnold returned to Western at age 40, saying it was “essentially the right time.” He feels that college and “Carnage” have given him opportunities to discover himself.
“This whole experience has been eye opening,” Arnold said. “It’s been rewarding, and you know, something I would never have done.”