The Red(and Green)room, Decemeber 2008

We were fresh off the success of Romeo and Juliet.  We had a much bigger and more active company.  We had a much bigger and more active audience.  M.  had this great idea–let’s do Christmas Carol.  Let’s really do Christmas Carol.

After all, it is a play about an old guy who is part of a community that he doesn’t much care for and doesn’t know at all.  Then, one day he wakes up and realizes that being part of the community around you is what makes you alive and that you should celebrate it!  The metaphor was not lost on us.

The problem–no Scrooge.  (Incidentally, this is a recurring problem at the stage; we have no older men.  See also All My Sons)  We spent a frantic month or so trying to find a Scrooge, pestering, begging, pleading, but to no avail.  Half as a joke, I suggested Jeffrey Borak, the local critic.  He’s an actor (a good one, so I’ve heard) and he’s the right age, and he’d look good in a Victorian top-hat…

We all laughed.   Then I thought, wouldn’t that be interesting…I sat down with a copy of Dickens’ story and started work right away.   The idea eventually became “A Critic’s Carol.”  The story is of Benjamin Montgomery, the much feared local critic, who has come to play Scrooge at a small local theatre company that is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.  During the course of the first read through, Benjamin is visited by three performances (from Christmas Carols Past, Present, and Future) who remind him why he loved theatre in the first place.   As with most Redroom ventures, the company shaped the piece after the initial script had been written.

So, we had half a Christmas show.  The company then got together and wrote a series of skits for the first half of the show, creating a Holiday-themed, more traditional Red Room.  These acts included workplace Secret Santa and Yankee Swap gift exchanges gone terribly awry, a parody of “Carol of the Bells,” a bittersweet dance, readings by local writers about Christmas memories, a skit with a chain-encumbered Jacob Marley trying to sneak home after a night of drinking without waking his wife, and, a personal favorite, “Jonathan’s Jewish Corner”–the Redroom’s answer to all those well-intentioned people who try to play up Hanukkah so that they don’t feel bad about being over the top with Christmas.

The show ran four nights and was a success.  It was an experiment–a Redroom with a lot of rehearsal that ran the same show more than once–but it worked.  We’re hoping to do a musical review this summer in August building on what we learned this past December.

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