Stagestruck: ’Tis the Season for Carols and Grace

When I heard about Silverthorne Theater Company’s upcoming production of A Christmas Carol, set in a 1930s radio studio, I thought of the story Garrison Keillor tells about the early days of television, when flickering black-and-white images were luring audiences away from radio drama. A young boy, asked which he preferred, radio or TV, answered without hesitation: “Radio. Because the pictures are better.”

John Reese, who directed a full-stage traditional version of the Dickens classic two seasons ago, says the idea arose in a conversation about the old days of radio with Michael Haley, who played Ebenezer Scrooge in that production, and his wife Joan. “We recalled just how exciting and vivid it was to create the visual images in your imagination, and how fortunate we were to have experienced this form of performance,” Reese says. That led to “a very Judy-and-Mickey moment — Hey, wouldn’t it be fun to create our own radio show and bring it to all those folks who never listened to old-style radio drama?”

Silverthorne’s Christmas Carol is performed this Friday to Sunday at three different venues in Greenfield, Northfield and Deerfield (details at silverthornetheater.org or (413) 768-7514). The cast of six — David Rowland, Ann Steinhauser and Sharon Weyers along with Reese and the Haleys — play 33 characters. “I go from the ghost of Jacob Marley to Tiny Tim,” says Reese. “A genuine challenge!”

The 1930s setting is underscored by period costumes, live sound effects performed by John Iverson on classic equipment, and old-time commercials and station breaks. Plus, for audience members who crave the true audio-only experience, sleep masks are provided so they can “see” the tale unfold in their mind’s eye.

 

Christmas-Carol-BTG-Eric-HillIf Silverthorne’s version rings changes on the old chestnut, two regional companies continue their long-running, time-honored stage adaptations.

The Berkshire Theatre Group presents its eleventh annual production Dec. 10 to 22, starring Eric Hill as Scrooge, overflowing the stage of Pittsfield’s Colonial Theatre with a cast of local adults and schoolchildren. xchristmas-carol-bill-raymond-as-scrooge-t-charles-ericksonMeanwhile, Hartford Stage Company is now running its nineteenth Carol, through Dec. 30. It’s the last one for Bill Raymond, who has been Hartford’s Scrooge for 16 seasons.

This year, both companies are offering special “sensory-friendly” performances geared to families of individuals with sensory-input disorders, such as people on the autism spectrum. At these shows, house lights stay on but dimmed, people can get up and move around if they wish, and the more startling sound and lighting effects are cut or diminished.

In keeping with the spirit of the season, BTG is also hosting a winter coat drive, soliciting contributions of “gently worn” coats for local families in need. For its part, Silverthorne Theater Company will be collecting non-perishable food items for Valley food pantries.

Acts of Grace

The word “grace,” says Linda McInerney, carries an array of definitions that speak to this holiday season: the free and unmerited gift of God to humanity. Simple elegance in manner and movement. To honor or elevate with one’s presence.

That multitasking word provides the title and theme for a “new vaudeville holiday spectacular” hosted by McInerney’s Eggtooth Productions. Staged at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls December 15 to 18 (tickets and info at eggtooth.org), the show brings together 15 Valley artists and performing groups, each offering a brief act of, with, or about grace.

xgrace-montage-courtesy-eggtooth-prodsThis variety show is nothing if not varied. There’s spoken word by Lindel Hart and by Maureen McElligott, who performs A Child’s Christmas in Wales; movement and dance by Jack Golden and Lori Holmes Clark; word-meets-movement in Katherine Adler’s From Me to You; Grace Booth in clips from her cabaret act Happyland; and an ensemble of Emily MacLeod, Rachel Schneider, Anna Sobel, Maya Rivera, Meghan Zaremba Anuva Kolli and Lindsay Stamler in three interwoven stories of young women overcoming adversity and achieving moments of grace.

And of course, there are songs — from Emma Ayres, about her family’s Azores ancestry; Kyle Boatright, with a number from Hamilton; Joe Dulude, performing the Muppets’ “Rainbow Connection” with images by Shelley Rotner; David Fersh and Art Fuleihan, with a moon and blue-moon medley; Joe Graveline, drawing from Native American traditions; and Nate Martel, with songs of “self-awareness, grace, and peace.”

Tying it all together are a thematic banner by Amy Johnquest, a lobby display by Josh Platt about traditions of grace around the world, and graceful music by harpist Piper Pichette to greet arriving patrons.

Berkshire Theatre Group photos by Charles T. Erickson 
Others courtesy of the companies

Contact Chris Rohmann at stagestruck@crocker.com.

Chris Rohmann

Author: Chris Rohmann

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