Shakespeare Festival's A CHRISTMAS CAROL Celebrates 32 Years, Runs 12/4-20

The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival's A Christmas Carol celebrates its 32nd anniversary this December. First produced in 1977, The Festival's premiere season, Dickens' classic has become a holiday tradition for schools, families and groups throughout the Piedmont.

"Over 600 performances of A Christmas Carol have been given," says Pedro Silva, NCSF's managing and artistic director, "and over 400,000 seats have been filled. Our production has become an anticipated holiday event during Christmas; for many people, Christmas simply isn't Christmas without attending the show."

When The Festival first produced A Christmas Carol it had no idea it would become such a success, but the response to the production has been so positive that the company continues to produce the play each December. "I think the key to the show's longevity is the simple, sincere approach we take to producing it," says Silva. "We remain true to the story, using as much of Dickens' actual dialogue as possible, and we focus principally on the acting as the key to the show's strength. This all makes for an experience that's heartwarming and moving for patrons - whether they're 7 years old, or 70."

The production will run from December 4th - 20th and features eight 10:00 a.m. and one 1:30 p.m. SchoolFest performances for students and teachers. A large number of home school as well as public and private school students are expected to attend. Senior citizen groups are also invited to consider attending the 1:30 p.m. December 15 performance. "We're proud of the service NCSF provides our educational community," says Ken Hughes, The Festival's Board Chairman. "A Christmas Carol is an exciting theatre experience for young people. Our detailed Study Guide for the production helps teachers assure their students get the most out of their visit to The Festival."

This year's production of A Christmas Carol introduces a new actor to the role of hard-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge. Production Director Pedro Silva, himself a celebrated alumnus in the role of NCSF's Scrooge, selected Winston-Salem's Michael Huie to take the role of the confirmed skinflint converted to the Spirit of Christmas by the haunting of several fearsome - yet loving - ghosts.

Huie is highly-regarded as an actor, writer and teacher. He is delighted to be returning to NCSF, where he performed from 1990-92, including the role of Young Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. More recently he played Dwight in Dead Man's Cell Phone, Gloucester in King Lear, Biff in Death of a Salesman and Hamlet as a guest artist at Wake Forest University. He has two one-man shows, Jack and 3 Hats, which have been performed regionally. In 2007, he performed Jack in the UK.

The Festival production is an original stage adaptation of the famous Charles Dickens' story, once again featuring the artistry of David Bishop's original score, with music direction by Pauline Cobrda, set design by Gary Dartt, lighting design by Jennifer Wynn O'Kelly, and this year's costumes developed by NCSF Costume Shop Manager Jennifer Ackland.

The Acting Company of twenty-five includes Equity, non-union professional, and community actors, interns, and young people. New to the roles of Bob Cratchit, and his wife Anne, are Duke Ernsberger, and Rebecca Koon, of Charlotte; returning to The Festival production of Carol, Stephen Ware of Charlotte will play the Ghost of Jacob Marley as well as Mr. Fezziwig. Also in dual roles, as First Philanthropist and Ghost of Christmas Past will be Jeanmarie Collins from Birmingham, AL; as Second Philanthropist and Ghost of Christmas Present will be Corey Allen from New York, NY. Mark Allen Woodard of Hickory, NC plays Fred, Scrooge's nephew; and, Vanecia Boone of Greensboro plays Fred's wife, Sarah.

Also in the cast from Greensboro, each in multiple roles ranging from Caroler to Mourner to Party Guest, are Mark Armstrong, Darrell J. Hunt, and Rachel Roberts. Meghan Hoffman of Greensboro plays Belle, and Young Belle, Scrooge's sweetheart in his youth; Keaton Brower of Greensboro plays Ignorance and additional roles. J. Hernandez of Charlottesville, VA plays Scrooge as a young man plus additional roles. Rob Taylor of Lexington, NC plays a Beggar and Old Joe. David Sebren of Fletcher, NC plays Belle's husband and additional roles.

Returning family performers from Thomasville, NC are NCSF's Homeschool and Administrative Assistant, Meredith Stephens in the roles of Bakery Lady, Party Guest and Mrs. Dilber, and her four children, all veterans of The Festival's production of Carol.
Stephens daughters, Megan plays a Townsperson and Party Guest; Laura plays Martha Cratchit, a Townsperson and Party Guest; Sarah plays Want, Belle's Child and a Townsperson. Stephens son, James, plays the roles of Scrooge as a Child and Tiny Tim.
Another performing family from High Point, Michael Howell, playing multiple roles including Townsperson, Party Guest and Mourner, joins again in this year's production with sons, Emory, playing the Turkey Boy and Townsperson, and Adam, playing Peter Cratchit and a Townsperson. Also joining the cast of A Christmas Carol this year from High Point is Alison Earley in the roles of Fan, a Townsperson, Party Guest and Charwoman.

NCSF's A Christmas Carol again offers ticket pricing specials that The Festival hopes will draw more families to the production. "We want to make A Christmas Carol as accessible as possible to the broadest audience possible, especially this year as the general economy continues to challenge family budgets," says Ken Hughes. "We want families to view coming to the show as one of their actual gifts for the holidays - not a material gift, but an experience-based gift that is priceless for a family."

Patrons can take advantage of The Festival's Early Bird Special that allows them to purchase 4 tickets to one performance for the price of 3 (the 4th ticket is the lower prIce Ticket; does not apply to other special offers). The offer applies only for phone and walk-up orders completed by Friday, December 4th. Additionally, The Festival has again teamed with WMAG Radio to hold two 99.5 WMAG Previews (December 4 & 5, 8:00 p.m.) that feature tickets priced at only $10.00 each. Two Community Performances (December 6, 2:00 p.m. & December 10, 7:30 p.m.) sponsored by The High Point Enterprise will feature tickets priced at $14. One Sunday matinee (December 13, 2:00 p.m.) and one SchoolFest performance (December 15, 10:00 a.m.) will be sign language interpreted.

Sponsors of this year's A Christmas Carol include High Point Convention & Visitors Bureau, 99.5 WMAG, FOX 8 WGHP, and Winston-Salem law firm Kilpatrick Stockton. "NCSF is very thankful for these sponsors," says Silva. "Our work would simply be impossible without their generous support and faith in the unique services we provide."

Tickets for the December 4 - 20 run of A Christmas Carol, prices ranging from $31 to $10 apiece, are on sale now at The High Point Theatre, 220 E. Commerce Avenue, Monday - Friday, 12:00 - 5:00 p.m. Call the Box Office at 336-887-3001. E-ticketing is available at www.highpointtheatre.com. Tickets may also be purchased one hour before curtain time at the Box Office for tickets to that's day's performance only. A detailed performance schedule and general information is also available on NCSF's website, www.ncshakes.org.

For SchoolFest matinee and General Group Sales, including homeschool groups, call NCSF's Administrative Offices, not the High Point Theatre Box Office, at 336-841-2273, x226, or email: sales@ncshakes.org.

Audience members are invited to support this year's Neighbors Feeding Neighbors program by bringing donations of non-perishable foods with them to any performance of A Christmas Carol. Collected goods will be distributed to needy families in High Point through the Community Resource Network.

The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival's 2009
Production of Charles Dickens'
A Christmas Carol

All Performances at High Point Theatre, 220 East Commerce Ave., High Point, NC

Individual Tickets: High Point Theatre Box Office
336-887-3001 (Mon-Fri, Noon-5:00pm)
www.highpointtheatre.com (24 Hours)

*Group Tickets: NCSF Administrative Office
336-841-2273, x226 or sales@ncshakes.org
www.ncshakes.org (Complete Information)
*Group Tickets: Any Order of 10 or More Tickets to a Single Performance; plus,
all SchoolFest Performances; and, all Homeschool Groups (of 2 or More).

Calendar Summary:

(11 Public Performances)
8:00 p.m. / December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19
7:30 p.m. / December 10 & 17
2:00 p.m. / December 6, 13 & 20
(December 4 & 5 / $10 Previews; December 6 & 10 / $14 Community Performances;
December 17 / Rush Discounts (at the door, one hour before performance only.)
Other Public Performances / Regular Prices: Adults, $31/$25; Students/Seniors, $23/$21.
(General Group Discounts for 10+ Tickets: $25/$23; Students/Seniors, $19.

(9 SchoolFest Performances / School Groups Only)
10:00 a.m. / December 4, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 16 & 17
1:30 p.m. / December 15 (This performance also for Senior Citizen Groups.)
December 4 SchoolFest / $12; all other SchoolFests / $14.

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