This week, Bloomington will embrace an entirely new spirit of the holidays as Monroe County Civic Theater’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” adapted to one 60-minute act by local playwright Russell McGee, opens for a three-week run. The production will be featured at seven locations across Bloomington and Spencer starting today through Dec. 17. The first performance is at 7 p.m. today at Rhino’s Youth Center and All-Ages Music Club, 331 S. Walnut.
Director and co-producer David Nosko will share with audiences a non-conventional, modest-budget version of the 164-year-old tale, accommodating generous helpings of humor within its original dramatic structure.
“(We want) audiences to open up at least a little bit,” he said. “We took something dramatic and made it funny.”
Co-producer and IU alumna Hannah Moss, playing the traditionally grouchy role of Ebenezer Scrooge, warns not to expect the most strictly faithful adaptation of Dickens’ novel.
“(We’re) challenging the audience in a way that isn’t really competition (with any other ‘A Christmas Carol’),” Moss said.
Their version, she said, is in no way intended to rival other versions, nor to divert attention from other seasonal attractions, such as the Bloomington Playwrights Project’s “Sex/Death V” or the IU Department of Theatre and Drama’s “Jimmy Cory.”
“Quite the contrary, we’re trying to be ourselves. … It’s very much about us,” Moss said.
For good measure, Moss and Nosko checked out film adaptations, old and new, from the local library, relishing Michael Caine’s Scrooge in “A Muppet Christmas Carol,” but not forgetting Alastair Sim and George C. Scott, to name a few.
IU sophomore Kerchanin Allen, who plays both Mrs. Crachit and Martha, said she has found two inspiring and highly talented people in Nosko and Moss.
“At the beginning of rehearsals, (Nosko) told us his idea, and we were like, ‘How are we going to pull this off?’” Allen said. “He pretty much made it happen.”
Allen is just as enthusiastic to perform with Moss, who she is also quick to praise.
“She knows exactly what she wants and (how to) get it,” Allen said. “She has amazing ideas that seem to come out of nowhere.”
Both producers, she added appreciatively, have devoted themselves to the production as a whole.
Allen has also had the privilege of performing with theatrical groups of high financial capability, such as Shakespeare in the Park. Working with the Monroe County Civic Theater, however, has done nothing to limit the experience she has gained thus far in “A Christmas Carol.”
“Every couple of nights, we change venues,” she explained. “We’re reaching out to different audiences and (having) different experiences.”
Changing venues, she said, spurs creativity and she said she likes to make changes with each performance to keep on-stage action from becoming static.
Each actor has been encouraged to “shout out an idea or make a suggestion,” emphasizing the level of comfort and flexibility in their tightly knit, motley crew of artists, Moss said. Charlotte Fitzek, who plays Fezziwig, decided just after the beginning of rehearsals to “step up in a big way” and become the assistant director. Moss described Fitzek as having “a keen eye” for the story’s physical dimensions, and said by suddenly displaying her abilities, “we helped realize her dreams.”
Parental guidance has been recommended for those under age 12. All shows are free, but donations are accepted.
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