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Rubicon Theatre Company to Stage World Premiere Adaptation of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL


Rubicon Theatre celebrates the holidays with the company's first presentation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, a World Premiere adaptation written by Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns and directed by Brian McDonald. Rubicon's A Christmas Carol features a 24-member cast (the largest ensemble since the company's production of Fiddler on the Roof and the largest ever for a play).

This timeless tale of redemption and hope follows the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge (Peter Van Norden), who is visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley (Joe Spano) and three spirits, who show him the error of his ways.

Director Brian McDonald describes Rubicon's version of the holiday tale as, "a dynamic actor-driven, ensemble-devised production, full of surprises. The story is told in an imaginative, narrative style, with actors directly addressing the audience at various moments," says McDonald. "The artists portray multiple characters, dogs, food - even dressing gowns and doors," he continues.

"It's a little in the style of the Royal Shakespeare Company's landmark production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, only shorter" says McDonald. "We hope our audiences will find the approach playful, engaging and impactful."

According to McDonald, Burns' adaptation also provides an intimate glimpse into Scrooge's past. "The script provides a revealing portrait of the lost and lonely child who became the miserly man," says McDonald. Elijah Graham, a thirteen-year-old resident of Santa Paula plays the Boy Scrooge and sings "Veni, Veni, Emanuel" in both the Prologue and the Epilogue.

"As I have watched rehearsals," says Burns, "I have been deeply touched by the healing aspects of the story. In the performances of Eli and Peter we ache for the hurt, abandoned child who has become cold-hearted and closed-minded man in order to steel himself against his own vulnerability." "Eli's opening song," says Burns, "is a beckoning from the Boy Scrooge and the Boy Dickens - a call to all of the spirits - the observers, the ancestors, the angels, the uncommitted, the outcasts - within and without - to bring healing to a broken world and rejoice, knowing God is come."

"Whatever one's belief system," continues Burns, "we hope attendees will find A Christmas Carol both entertaining and moving. Whatever hurts we have experienced, whatever wrong turns we have made," says Burns, "it is never too late to change. We can honor the past, present and future. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can become a child again and be reborn."

Low-priced previews for A Christmas Carol begin this Wednesday, December 2 at 7 p.m. Opening night is Saturday December 5 at 7 p.m., and is followed by an after-party hosted by Watermark on Main with the artists and local dignitaries. A Christmas Carol continues through December 20, with performances Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursdays at 8 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (except opening night), and Sundays at 2 p.m. Rubicon Theatre is located 1006 E. Main in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District, For tickets and information, call (805) 667-2900 or go to

More on Van Norden and Spano as Scrooge and Marley
No stranger to the role of Scrooge, Peter Van Norden portrayed the crotchety character for two seasons at San Diego Rep. Stepping into the role again, he finds this version refreshing in its approach as compared to traditional productions. "Scrooge has been dear to my heart since I was a boy," says Van Norden. "When you do the play right, Scrooge finds the meaning and joy in life again. It's a great role to play. What I love Karyl Lynn's astonishing adaptation is the constant theatricality. It gives the story vibrancy and clarity."

Van Norden is a New York native whose Broadway credits include Hamlet with Kevin Kline and Sam Waterston, Jungle of Cities with Al Pacino, Henry V with Meryl Streep, and Saint Joan with Lynn Redgrave. He has worked at many of the nation's most prestigious rep companies, including The Globe Theatre, San Diego Rep, San Jose Rep (Bay Area Theatre Critics Award for Andrew Undershaft in Major Barbara), Center Stage, Seattle Rep, Intiman Theatre, and Berkeley Rep. His dozens of film and TV roles include leads opposite Jodie Foster in "The Accused," as Steve Guttenberg's partner in "Police Academy 2," and as Ralph Brentner in the Stephen King mini-series "The Stand."

Joe Spano is playing the role of Jacob Marley for the first time (whom he enjoys calling "the voice of tough love"). For him, working on this adaption has been an exciting opportunity to, "discover the beautiful language of the original novella and remember why A Christmas Carol is an enduring holiday tradition."

Spano has appeared in thirty feature films, including "Hart's War," "Primal Fear," "Apollo 13," "American Graffiti," "Hollywoodland," "Fracture" and "Frost/Nixon." Series TV credits include Special FBI Agent T. C. Fornell on "NCIS" (now in its 13th year), Lt. Henry Goldblume on "Hill Street Blues," "Mercy Point," "Amazing Grace," "Murder One," "NYPD Blue," and "Midnight Blue," for which we won an Emmy Award. He made his Broadway debut in Arthur Miler's The Price with Hector Elizondo. West Coast stage credits include three shows at South Coast Rep; Bill Cain's Equivocation at the Geffen Playhouse; The Guys at Berkeley Rep, of which he is a founding member; and multiple shows at Rubicon, including Sylvia, R. Buckminster Fuller..., Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Sunset Limited.

Presented as a play with music, Rubicon's production also incorporates traditional carols sung a cappella by cast members including Teri Bibb (Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for seven years); Jennifer Leigh Warren (Big River, Little Shop of Horrors and Marie Christine in New York); Parker Harris (a Ventura resident making his mainstage debut who has grown up in Rubicon youth productions of Urinetown and West Side Story); and Trevor Wheetman (a Nashville-based artist whose credits include Lonesome Traveler at Rubicon and Off Broadway, and It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues at Seattle Rep). Wheetman and Bibb also plays fiddle and accordion, respectively, in the Fezziwig party scene in A Christmas Carol.
Other Cast Members

The 24-member cast also includes Gary Clemmer as Mr. Cratchit; Zachary Andrews as Scrooge's amiable nephew Fred; Alyson (Schuster) Lindsay as Fred's wife and Scrooge's dowerless fiancé Belle; Sophie Massey, Basil Augustine and David White as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future; Dan Call as the jovial Mr. Fezziwig; Sonje Fortag as the Charwoman; Jesse Graham as Peter and Dick Wilkins, Rebecca Ann Graham as Fred's Wife's Sister, Jenaha McLearn as Caroline, Matt Bourne as William, Michaela Watson as Fezziwig's Daughter, Troy Braun as Turkey Boy, Maya Zohre Mouderres as Fan, and 7-year-old Mason Rothermel as Tiny Tim.

Design Team includes Newly Appointed Resident Designer
Thomas S. Giamario has created a magical, multi-level open space for the setting of A Christmas Carol. Acting as an extension of the character of Scrooge, the set is both a literal and figurative representation of Scrooge's mind as he travels with the Ghosts through space and time in order to find himself. Giamario, whose recent sculptural set for Rubicon's My Fair Lady received critical acclaim, has just been appointed as Resident Scenic Designer for the 2015-2016 Season. Giamario's more than forty designs at Rubicon include The Man of La Mancha, Noises Off, Dancing at Lughnasa and many others. Lighting for the production is by Ovation and LADCC award-winning Jeremy Pivnick, sound by Tony nominee and Drama Desk Award-winner Cricket S. Myers (Bengal Tiger), costumes by Abra Flores (A Rubicon Family Christmas, Murder in the First, The Rainmaker), props/set dressing by T. Theresa Scarano, wig design by Danielle Irene White (Rubicon's Lonesome Traveler, Steel Magnolias, Gem of the Ocean) and dialect work by Tuffet Schmelzle. Jessie Vacchiano is Production Stage Manager and Kathleen J. Parsons is Assistant Stage Manager.

About the Director
Over the past few seasons at Rubicon, Brian McDonald directed Other Desert Cities at Rubicon (5 Stage Scene LA Awards including Outstanding Direction and Production); A Tuna Christmas (in which he also appeared); The Sunset Limited; Bus Stop (five Ovation nominations including Best Play); "Master Harold"... and the boys (three Ovation nominations including Best Play, Indy Award and Stage Scene LA Award for Direction); and the World Premiere musical Hello! My Baby, written and conceived by Cheri Steinkellner. Regionally, McDonald has appeared on stage at Denver Center, Theatre Virginia, The Lyric Stage, La Mirada Performing Arts Center, Ensemble Theatre Company, The Pasadena Playhouse, Thousand Oaks Performing Arts Center and the Ahmanson. He received the LA Weekly Award for Best Supporting Actor Award for his performance as Gaveston in the Circle X production of Edward II directed by Michael Michetti. He is a BFA graduate of Boston Conservatory.

About the Adaptor
The book for A Christmas Carol is written by Rubicon's Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns. Burns founded Rubicon with husband James O'Neil in 1998 and has overseen more than 120 productions for the company, including the World Premieres of 23.5 Hours/Conviction by Carey Crim (a co-production with Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor directed by Scott Schwartz; Daddy Long Legs by John Caird and Paul Gordon (which has traveled to 15 U.S. cities and 4 countries); The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman (NY Drama Desk Award); Lonesome Traveler by James O'Neil (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations); and Hello! My Baby by Cheri Steinkellner. This past season, Burns produced Tom Dugan's Wiesenthal Off-Broadway at The Acorn Theatre with Daryl Roth, directed by Jenny Sullivan (Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations). She also produced the West Coast BeckettFest, which brought international artists to Ventura for a month-long celebration of the works of Samuel Beckett.

The Enduring Legacy of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Published as a novella by Charles Dickens in 1843, A Christmas Carol was met with instant acclaim and has never been out of print. The story follows rancorous miser Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by his deceased business partner Jacob Marley and three apparitions: Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. These encounters spur Scrooge to make a dramatic change for the good, embracing mankind through a generous spirit of kindness and charity.
At the time of A Christmas Carol's publication in England, resurgence in Christmas traditions had sparked renewed interest in the holiday. A tireless champion for the poor, Dickens interlaced the growing enthusiasm for Christmas into a cautionary parable against harsh treatment towards the less fortunate -- a reoccurring theme in his seminal novels.

The first public reading Charles Dickens gave was of A Christmas Carol at Birmingham Town Hall to the Industrial and Literary Institute in 1852. Subsequent readings only days later included audiences comprised mainly of the working class. Until his death, Dickens continued editing A Christmas Carol with an emphasis on its vocal linguistic qualities, adapting his prose to suit the ear rather than for silent reading. Much like a song, the novella is divided into five staves (song stanzas), relating back to the significance of the title. For over 160 years, this classic holiday tale has been adapted in more than twenty film versions, hundreds of television shows and stage versions, eight recordings and four operas.

Title Sponsors for A Christmas Carol are Loretta and Mike Merewether and Gloisten Family Foundation. Mr. Spano's appearance is underwritten by Elise and Bill Kearney. Sponsors for the 2015-2016 Season are Diane and Peter Goldenring, Janet and Mark L. Goldenson, Sandra and Jordan Laby, Barbara Meister and Anne and Michael Towbes.

Schedule, Special Performances and Ticket Info
Low-priced previews of A Christmas Carol begin Wednesday, December 2 at 7 p.m. continuing Thursday, December 3 at 8 p.m. and Friday, December 4 at 8 p.m. The Opening Night is Saturday, December 5 at 7 p.m. Regular performances are Wednesdays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. (except opening) and Sundays at 2 p.m. Talkbacks with the actors are scheduled after Wednesday 7 p.m. performances on December 9 and 16.
Tickets for A Christmas Carol range from $35 to $64 (opening night is $95 and includes the post-show reception hosted by Watermark on Main). Tickets for students are $30, and student rush tickets are available for $15. Discounts of 10% to 20% are available for groups of 10 or more, depending on the size of the group. Tickets for A Christmas Carol may be purchased in person through the Rubicon Theatre Company Box Office at the corner of Main and Laurel in Ventura (Laurel entrance and downstairs) or online at To charge by phone, call 805.667.2900.

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