Experience 'A Christmas Carol' in a new way
"You’re just like the gal who cain’t say ‘No!’," sing-songed my dear friend and Joliet neighbor Goldie Hershman. Sheryl nodded in agreement. They both were right, of course. Like the character Ado Annie from the musical "Oklahoma," it is a rare occasion when I respond in the negative when someone asks.
Over a reunion brunch last Sunday in Illinois, I admitted that I had agreed, once again, to a cameo performance as Lord Mayor London in the current production of "The Spirit of Christmas Past: A Christmas Carol," a revival production of the Words Players, a special community outreach of the Rochester area’s home-school community.
While "A Christmas Carol" is a faithful mix of adult and youth performers, students themselves are heavily involved not only in the acting, but in the theatrical work that goes into each production. They help direct, create sets and costumes and promote the production.
Moments in the spotlight
If you attended a performance of "A Christmas Carol" in 2009, then you know what I have gotten myself into. However, if you haven’t lifted your holiday spirits with this marvelously unique, roasted chestnut of the Christmas season, then you should consider attending a performance. The production continues through Dec. 17.
My "performance" is tomorrow night, Dec. 1. For my mere five minutes on stage, I get-up in a Dickensian costume and proclaim a series of holiday toasts to the audience. I am not alone in this splendid moment in the spotlight. Every performance features, as Lord Mayor London, someone from the community. Some names you'll know, and some you may not:
• Former Rochester Mayor Chuck Hazama, whose Hawaiian ethnicity certainly made for a peculiar Dickens of a Lord Mayor last weekend.
• Acclaimed realstage actor Doug Scholz-Carlson from the Great River Shakespeare Festival (Dec. 3).
• Rochester Attorney Jeff Mintz, "a nice Jewish boy," as Goldie would say (Dec. 8 and 10 matinee).
• Tom Overlie, KTTC-TV’s endearing news anchor (Dec. 9).
• Another peculiarity: Mike Munoz, the new superintendent of Rochester Public Schools, who also seems to be a guy who "cain’t say ‘No!’ " (Dec. 10 evening).
• Others include Mayo Clinic’s Jonathon Torrens-Burton; attorney Steve Jorstad; KROC radio host Richard Peterson; and, most appropriately, Rochester’s current mayor, Ardell Brede for several performances (Dec. 15-17).
To add to the marvel of the occasion, "A Christmas Carol" is performed inside the extraordinarily handsome Mayowood Stone Barn in southwest Rochester. The venue has been transformed into a Dickens-era London street complete with urchins, beggars, street lights, carolers, and a Dickens market. The audience becomes a part of the festivities within the play, a sheer delight for those who think they’ve experienced every aspect of "A Christmas Carol."
Familiar tale, new twists
A couple Monday nights ago, I stumbled into the barn and into a magical world. Dress rehearsals had begun, and I was running late for my brief turn upon the stage. I wove my way through costumed players who warmly welcomed me in accented English, quite in character.
My timing was oddly impeccable. Someone was ready to fill in for me until several actors sang out "The Lord Mayor is here! The Lord Mayor is here!" Quickly I was thrust upon the stage, greeted lovingly by my in-character stage wife, and handed my proclamation script and a champagne glass for mock toasting. Reading aloud — and loudly — to a jovial crowd, I completed my rehearsal, and then settled in to watch a bit more of the rehearsal of the classic Charles Dickens story.
Miserly Scrooge, a bitter grouch to those who pass him in the street, headed into a cold and lonely home and bedroom. I love the ingenuity of the staging by the Words Players. Certain scenes of the production are shown both live and concurrently on television monitors, scenes excerpted from a couple different early films of "A Christmas Carol." I choose not to reveal too much; you have to be there to experience this remarkable conversion of Scrooge to a man who learned to celebrate Christmas, and very well.
To learn more about this production and to purchase tickets to "The Spirit of Christmas Past: A Christmas Carol," please go to www.northlandwords.org.
Please note that some performances, perhaps one featuring your favorite Lord Mayor London, are sold out. Also, note there is offered a unique pre-performance Dickensian dining experience that should add significantly to your 2011 holiday memories.