Thomas Aiden Baughman is already an acting veteran, taking his second turn as Tiny Tim in the Dallas Theater Center’s “A Christmas Carol.” Though at 12 years old, they are a not-so-tiny version of the beloved character.
Usually, the role goes to a younger actor. But when the show was cast last fall, Actor’s Equity rules required all performers be vaccinated against COVID-19. Since the vaccine wasn’t available for children under 12 yet, the company had to go forgo parts for younger kids.
The pandemic is creating other headaches for the Dallas Theater Center. A company member has tested positive for COVID, so on Friday, the theater announced that performances will be cancelled until at least Tuesday, Dec. 21.
“We are disappointed to be canceling any ‘A Christmas Carol’ performances,” said Jeff Woodward, DTC’s Managing Director, in a statement released Friday. “However, the Actor’s Equity Association and Center for Disease Control guidelines indicate canceling these shows is the best course of action to keep Dallas Theater Center patrons, artists, and staff as safe as possible during this uncertain time.”
Thomas fills us in on what it’s like playing the classic character in a COVID world.
You played Tiny Tim in 2019, what’s different about your experience this time?
This year, we definitely had to cut back on a few things we had in previous years. And also, we have to follow COVID guidelines. We have to get tested every week and we have to wear masks backstage.
And last time when I auditioned, I auditioned in person. There was a line of people of, like I’d say, about 30 in just my audition alone, like 30 kids just auditioning for a few characters. But this year, we did all the auditions online. We recorded our auditions and then sent them in. So, we don’t really have a good idea of who auditioned and who or how many people auditioned.
What about the show itself? Is there anything different?
Of course, it’s the same show. But our director, Christie [Vela], well, she really tries to focus on the horror aspect on any show that she directs because she absolutely loves horror. And in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ she feels that that aspect is often lost so she really tried to emphasize that as much as she could.
Was there anything fun or exciting that happened during rehearsals or production?
So, we have this test dummy that we used for rehearsals. And so like, we still have this test dummy backstage and in the dressing rooms and every single day people have been moving it around like an Elf on the Shelf. One time, I walked into my dressing room and I was getting into costume, and I look up above on shelves and I just see him there. I was not happy about that.
What do you do to get into character for Tiny Tim?
I’ll make sure I look depressed as much as I can. I kind of make sure that I’m not using my muscles to the full strength that I can. I really have trouble turning this reel thing that’s on a boiler in the first scene. And I have to get Peter to help me turn it because I just don’t have the physical strength to do it right. So it’s really a lot of those things, just put in those aspects of Tiny Tim physically and mentally, and make sure to channel those as much as I can and also make my presence on stage– just like kind of scrunch up my body so that it looks like kind of tinier than I actually am, even though I’m like four foot 10.
What advice do you give to kids who say they want to get into acting?
I like to give advice like, as you’re reading, really think about who your character is, what your character thinks about. How you present yourself at every moment and just keep on going, even if you forget things. Even as you’re reading through something for the first time, read it with emotion. Read it so you know what your first impression is. Like your view on this character is your view on how you should portray this character.
What’s your dream role?
Honestly, I have a lot of dream roles. But above all, I would love to play pretty much anything in “Dear Evan Hansen.” It’s one of my favorite musicals, and it really, hits close to me. I’ve always loved the show ever since it first came out. So, whatever role it is, I would love to be in Dear Evan Hansen.
What do you want for Christmas?
Um, my two front teeth? Yeah, I don’t think there’s any one thing in particular I need for Christmas. But something that does seem like I’ve been keeping my eyes on, it’s tickets to a concert, specifically the Cavetown concert that’s coming to Dallas in April.
This conversation was edited for brevity and clarity.