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Julian Wiles, Founder and Producing Artistic Director
Marybeth Clark, Associate Artistic Director

December 14, 2009

Great Review of Charleston Stage’s A Christmas Carol

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 3:10 pm

A Christmas Carol:  A Ghost Story of Christmas by Charleston Stage, Charleston, SC

by Tracey Brewer

Our family of four attended A Christmas Carol:  A Ghost Story of Christmas on a recent evening and was thoroughly entertained by this enchanting show.  A musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, it was performed by Charleston Stage and directed by Julian Wiles.  This is an annual affair and runs for several weeks during the month of December.

We found the entire production to be very professional and well-orchestrated.  It was held in the College of Charleston Sottile Theatre, a charming old building located in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.  Seating was plentiful and comfortable and, from our location about ten rows back, the acoustics were excellent.

The casting of characters was delightful, with the part of Ebenezer Scrooge played by David Ardrey.  He executed the role flawlessly and with great emotion.  Justin Tyler Lewis as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, carried off his part equally well.  Many of the cast members played multiple roles, seamlessly changing from one to the other according to the scene.  The actors were certainly talented and well-rehearsed, yet brought their own personalities to their characters.

The musical pieces, some of which included dancing, were enjoyable and featured solo as well as group numbers. The set and costumes were well-designed with evident attention to detail in their historical accuracy. Among the most creative was that of The Ghost of Christmas Future, who never spoke a word, but was quite an imposing figure. 

Our nine-year-old daughter was enthralled from the beginning to the end of this nearly two-hour show. Our seven-year-old was slightly frightened by the special effects that accompanied the entrance of each of the spirits, but on the whole found it quite enjoyable. My husband and I were pleased with the family-friendly aspect of the show as well as the quality of the performances.

Although the tale of Scrooge is well-known and often repeated, this was a presentation to remember.  Sly humor was woven throughout and the message of the story – rediscovering what is truly important in life – shone through.  Overall, this was a pleasurable way to spend an evening together as a family and brought the spirit of the holiday season to the forefront of our minds.

Click here to see the review posted online

Playing the Role of Ghost of Christmas Present, by Lindsey Lamb

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 11:34 am

Q: What special challenges did you face relating to and creating a nonhuman character?

A: I was so excited to get an opportunity to delve into a character like Christmas Present.  It has been a lot of fun to play a nonhuman character.  I feel like I have had some freedom when developing the character since there aren’t as many boundaries or limitations as a human character.  While being a spirit allows me to take some liberties, I have strived to keep her real and honest as she tries to teach Scrooge life lessons. Christmas Present is a very jovial spirit but she is also quick to put Scrooge in his place.  She has different dynamics to her which hopefully makes her a more interesting character. Christmas Present’s entrance has been especially fun.  I won’t tell you more about the entrance…come and see for yourself!   

 

Present

(David Ardrey as Scrooge and Lindsey Lamb as the Ghost of Christmas Present)

December 9, 2009

Playing the Role of Marley, by Stephen Fordham

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 2:34 pm

Q: Jacob Marley and Mr. Fezziwig are dramatically different characters but they both have a profound effect on Scrooge.  How do you view their importance in Scrooge’s life, and how did that affect your performance?

A: When Scrooge views his past life with two very influential, but different bosses, he is reminded of Fezziwig’s role model of generosity and joie de vivre. Scrooge also knows about Fezziwig’s later decline in health and failed business. As we know, Scrooge initially chooses the Marley lifestyle of success in business at the expense of interpersonal relationships and true happiness. Marley’s ghost is troubled by his past choices, and he comes to Scrooge literally to scare him into changing his ways before it’s too late. Marley has the advantage of knowing what awaits Scrooge if he doesn’t change, and his visit along with the other three ghosts plants the seeds for Scrooge’s transformation.

In my own life I have known many happy-go-lucky, jovial individuals like Fezziwig. At the same time I have met quite a few solitary, success-driven, work-a-holics like Jacob Marley. In playing these polar opposites, I drew from my own life experiences to portray each character as honestly as possible.

 

Marley_photo

Stephen Fordham as Jacob Marley

 

December 8, 2009

“The art of giving well”, Article in Post and Courier

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 6:52 pm

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Judging from news reports, the holiday season is all about shopping. Are people spending less? Will discounts go deeper? Where can desperate parents find Zhu Zhu Pets?

And while shopping isn’t a bad thing, it isn’t the only thing. The holidays are a time to look for inspiration and to be with family and friends, as well as gift giving. Fortunately, there is something that might just do it all: a ticket to a holiday performance of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Charleston Stage or the Charleston Ballet Theatre.

Everyone who buys a ticket to “The Nutrcracker” or “The Messiah” or “A Christmas Carol” is doing something for the community. Those dollars keep local arts groups going.

Last year at this time, the balance sheet looked grim for the CSO. It needed big donors and a plan to weather a dark financial storm. It also needed what all arts organizations need all year long — audiences. Ticket sales help the budget, of course, but audiences inspire performers who inspire audiences.

But don’t go to a performance because you want to support arts organizations. Go because you’ll be making memories with friends and family.

Take a grandchild to the Charleston Ballet Theatre’s magical performance of the Nutcracker Suite. There are four performances from which to choose. Take a friend to “A Christmas Carol.” The familiar story of Ebeneezer Scrooge is always worth seeing. With 12 more performances on the calendar, there’s sure to be a fit.

Take your family to the Holiday Pops concert, “The Messiah,” a Gospel Christmas concert, Holiday Strings or Holiday Brass concert, or “The Messiah” sing-along.

You needn’t even think about how much the $5 you paid for a ticket will help. Just let the sounds and sights of the season come alive on stage. (But, should you really want to know, the CSO, Charleston Ballet Theatre and Charleston Stage are healthier than last year, but not close to being out of the financial woods.)

A calendar for the three groups is posted at charlestonpremierarts.com, a Web site funded with help from a private donor.

These organizations work year-round to keep alive arts in Charleston.

Attending a performance might be the most pleasant “giving” you’ll do this year. And it will certainly be more refreshing than searching for Zhu Zhu Pets.

December 4, 2009

Reflections on Christmas Carol, by Playwright and Founder Julian Wiles

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 10:00 am

 

Though we know the story, we know the characters, and often we even know many of the songs that make up Dickens’ remarkable A Christmas Carol, it’s forever new.  For the journey that Scrooge takes each holiday season—to rediscover what matters in life is a journey we all take.  Especially in this fast-paced world with 24-hour internet, 500 cable channels, and cell phones that are never turned off.  The chatter around us is no less deafening and isolating than the world Ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge created for himself.  Often, I think in our effort to always be connected, in many ways, like poor Scrooge, we’re not connected at all.

The antidote to this modern isolation I feel (I’m a little biased) can be found in the magic of the theatre.  Gathering with friends and family to enjoy a live performance together, discussing and debating what we’ve seen performed (not reproduced for us in high def) is hard to beat.  Best of all, we get to enjoy commentary, our own thoughts, and our own emotions without pundits telling us what we should be thinking and feeling.

And each year as Scrooge looks into his own life and the path he has chosen, I suspect we all reflect on what is and what might have been, our ups and our downs from the past year.  We are reminded that wherever the path of life has taken us, the future with all its possibilities awaits.  Dickens personifies this future in a character he calls the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  Though this is Dickens’ most frightening phantom, it is also the spirit that brings eternal hope and possibility as well.  We humans, as Dickens shows so well, have an endless capacity for starting over, to reflect and to strive to find the better part of our natures.

Often we think of A Christmas Carol as simply a lesson in not being stingy, but it is really a lesson in not being stingy with our imaginations, with our dreams, and especially with those whom we hold dear.  I don’t think a story about a grumpy old miser would have lasted so long if it were not truly a tale of hope and renewal.  We return to this story year after year, not because it’s the same, but because it renews our hope that better tomorrows await us.  Truly, a new day dawns for each of us each day.  

As you enjoy this holiday production, know that our wish here at Charleston Stage is that your days ahead are merry and bright with no humbugs in sight.

 

Wishing you the happiest of holidays,

Julian Wiles, Playwright and Producing Artistic Director

 

Carol1

(Fred And Caroline's House On Christmas Day)

 

Carol2

(Carolers Sing "O Little Town Of Bethlehem")

 

Drew Archer, Ghost of Christmas Past

Filed under: Back Stage Blog — julianw @ 9:39 am
DrewArcher

Drew Archer, Ghost of Christmas Past

Q:  What special challenges does portraying a character not of this world present, such as the role of Ghost of Christmas Past?

A:  There are many great opportunities and challenges when approaching the development of a non-human character.  Specifically, when delving into a role such as the Ghost of Christmas Past, you get to answer questions that help to inform the choices you make on stage while not bluntly addressing them.  Was Christmas Past a human first that was given a task, or a being created only for that purpose?  How long has he been appearing to people?  How often is he successful in helping people to change their lives and embrace the Christmas spirit?  Does he think Scrooge will change?

Approaching the character also gives a new sense of freedom.  Since it is a non-human, it allows the actor to add a layer of unpredictability to the portrayal.  Where a person may react one way to a situation, a Ghost has the privilege of seeing the bigger picture and reacting in a different way. 

I think the most important thing to remember in approaching this character is purpose.  What is the primary function of Christmas Past?  In this play, he is there to show Scrooge the choices he has made in the past in hopes of motivating him to make better choices in the future.  Everything Christmas Past does should find some level of motivation in that statement.

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