ST. BONAVENTURE — SBU Theater will present a new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, in Garret Theater at St. Bonaventure University, with a special matinee performance set for 2 p.m. Saturday.
An audience talk-back session follows the Friday evening performance.
This production of the Dickens classic features seven actors and four puppets. The puppets, which include Tiny Tim, the ghostly children Ignorance and Want, and the 7-foot Ghost of Christmas Yet-To-Come, were designed by SBU Theater alumna Allie Herryman.
“Puppets were a fixture of Victorian theater,” said Dr. Ed. Simone, director of the theater program at St. Bonaventure and the adaptor of this version of the play. “I always wanted to include puppets in an adaptation of the ‘Carol’ and working with Allie as puppet designer was the perfect opportunity.”
Herryman, who is now on the staff at Interlochen Center for the Arts, Interlochen, Mich., was excited about the opportunity to return to her roots at SBU Theater.
“‘A Christmas Carol’ is one of my favorite shows, and it’s a treat to get to do puppet design for a production that doesn’t traditionally call for puppetry,” she said. “This version is a great mix of preserving a story that feels like a tradition and making something innovating that brings the audience a new experience.”
The sets and lights for the production were designed by Associate Professor Rebecca Misenheimer, SBU Theater’s technical director.
Playing multiple roles in the production are theater majors Dwight Coleman and Taylor Morton-Lewis, theater minors Emily Weber, Cameron Pettrone and Nicholas Youngs, and health science major Sarah Wright. Wright, Weber and Coleman are newcomers to SBU Theater.
“Being in ‘A Christmas Carol’ has taught me that acting is very much like a muscle,” Weber said. “Having the opportunity to play so many different characters in this adaptation has helped me become a stronger and more flexible actress. I think we, as an ensemble, work wonderfully together.”
Wright added: “Every second spent rehearsing has made me grow closer to my cast mates, the crew, and to better my own skills on stage, all of which I am very grateful for.”
Simone joins his student cast in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
“It’s important for student actors to work with experienced professionals in all areas of the arts, of course, but we’re all about the ensemble,” Simone said. ‘A Christmas Carol’ isn’t really the story of Scrooge. It’s the story of all the people affected by him, by his narrowness and greed, and so it’s the story of us. I’m one more member of the ensemble, one part of this wonderful cast and crew.”
The production features the actors switching dialects to play multiple characters. The show is staged in three-quarter thrust, with the audience on three sides, close to the action. The actors perform on a largely bare stage using only crates, stools and hand props to create the scenes.
“This stage version is as intensely paced as Dickens’ story, running just a little over an hour,” Simone said. “It’s great fun for the actors flowing from scene to scene, character to character, without a break. The effect in rehearsals has been very powerful, magical really.”
Theater majors Elizabeth Freeman and Jean Carlos Aponte are the production’s stage managers.
“Stage managing ‘A Christmas Carol’ is an amazing opportunity to see Dr. Simone not only direct a fine cast of actors, but bring a professional quality of acting to them,” said Freeman, who also stage managed last season’s production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.”
Crewing the show are Lauren Barry, Jessica Cason, Angelina Giglio, Emily Cogley and theater major Carolyn Haswell.
For this production, SBU Theater welcomes back guest costume designer Janell Clingenpeel, who costumed last spring’s production of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” Clingenpeel designed all the costumes, including the clothes for the puppets, evoking the London of Dickens’ time.
“Working on ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been a great experience and it is a pleasure to be guest designing for SBU again,” Clingenpeel said. “I always love working on period pieces as it gives me a chance to give the audience a glimpse into another time.”
Misenheimer said while “A Christmas Carol” is a familiar play that has been done many times before, “this new adaptation manages to be exciting and fresh, and yet nostalgic in that warm and fuzzy holiday way.”
Simone calls the production “a holiday treat for all ages.”
Tickets are $6 for students, senior citizens and St. Bonaventure employees, and $8 for the general public. Seating in Garret Theater is limited, so advanced reservations are recommended. Free student rush seats are made available on a first-come, first-served basis one hour before curtain time on the day of the show — one ticket per valid student ID in person at the box office.
To book tickets or for more information, phone the box office at 375-2494.