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Tour de Force performance soon to play The Denver Fringe Festival

Interview: David Robert Weber, Tim Blewitt of AN ACTOR'S CAROL: ONE CLOWN'S DICKENSIAN MARATHON TOWARDS REDEMPTION While the events of 2020 forced many creative artists to hit the pause button on their endeavors, actor and Adjunct Instructor of Theatre, David Robert Weber, 47, used those limitations as an opportunity to grow. Instead of letting the lights go down, he opened a unique studio in Blairsville, Georgia, a town of 600, nestled in the mountains about100 miles north of Atlanta. He aptly named it Promontory Players.

"If we take one step off this mountain promontory," Weber says. "We could fall into the perilous ocean." That metaphor describes the precarious nature of creating theater.

Weber's inspiration for the studio was to give professionals in commercial markets the ability to escape the metropolis and work safely "in paradise" while refilling their artistic reservoirs. He also needed a safe, socially distanced environment so his youth ensemble could continue to study after Covid forced Young Harris College, where Weber is a faculty member, to close its campus to visitors. (Before Covid, the College was delighted to provide a venue for teens.) Once The Atlanta Shakespeare Company went dark during lockdown, Weber lost that opportunity to perform professionally.

Opening a studio brought about the financial necessity of putting on enough small, Covid-compliant productions to sustain it. With the holidays coming, Weber needed a Christmas show that would work within those limitations.

"A Christmas Carol kept coming back to mind," Weber says. "It's a great story, and it's classical. I believe in working on the things that are interesting to me and inviting others to share in that work."

That text was first brought before an audience was in 1853. Author Charles Dickens gave a public Christmas season reading of his 1843 novella about the redemption of a miserly London-based businessman named Ebenezer Scrooge. That reading was so well-received that Dickens continued to personally bring that text to life before audiences until his death in 1870.

150 years later, Weber and Los Angeles based Creator and co-adapter, Tim Blewitt sat to down together to adapt that text into the one-man show, An Actor's Carol: One Clown's Dickensian Marathon towards Redemption.

"Dikran Tulaine, a mentor I had when I was graduate school planted the seed one day over lunch," Weber recalls. "He produced/directed a four-person Christmas Carol with the Atlanta Shakespeare Company, and he encouraged me to work on one-man storytelling. At that time, I thought, I don't know if I can do that."

Blewitt adds, "I was interested in this project first and foremost because of the challenge of on actor creating 22 distinct and believable characters, all with wants, needs and full personalities. I was also interested in retelling an age-old tale with a fresh perspective. I find the Carol To be incredibly topical. . . Like a song and story that should be retold every so often, lest we forget the lesson."

Blewitt's training in Devised Work, Mime and Clown at Belgium's École LASSAAD made him well-equipped him to envision and direct this intensely physical 55-minute show.

"I had to learn the aesthetic of how to turn into the different characters," Weber explains. Adding that he called upon Matthew Floyd Miller, in Los Angeles for help with dialect and characterizations, as well as New York-based Zach D'Antonio to work with him on lines, and eventually co-produce the show.

"The hardest part of being alone onstage and changing characters so often was knowing the target of each character's attention," Weber says. "We had to get that specified before the acting process could begin."

The other challenge to the show is what Weber refers to as 'The One Man Band' aspect of the program, as the actor, himself, manipulates lighting, props, costume elements, and sound effects throughout the show.

When it came to the challenge of orchestrating that "One Man Band" Blewitt say, "I was intrigued with the prospect of physically creating a story that swirls to life in front of an audience's. When the streets of London appear before your eyes through the crafted spatial relations of a single actor, and when Spirits spring to life through calculated gesture and playful imagination, that's where all the magic lies!"

"I'm walking on a tightrope, and I'm inviting you to watch me do it," Weber says, adding that this challenge has changed him as an actor. "My discipline as an actor has gotten better because I've learned to ask for more help."

Weber adds that, as an educator, he felt it was important to model going through uncertainty combined with faith in the process for his students.

When asked what other aspects of the show are important, Blewitt says. "The tale of capitalism and corruption is just as recurrent today as it was in the 1800s. Billionaires, and even multi-millionaires, deciding who gets what, and how much, and when, and why. The story of A Christmas Carol takes place around the inception of Capitalism with the burgeoning of the Industrial Revolution, but has anything really changed?"

Weber goes on to reflect that in addition to the traditional meaning of the story, he finds personal meaning in the text as well because many years ago, he battled alcohol addiction. "This play mirrors my redemption to recovery," he explains. "Scrooge's journey takes him through all 12 steps to redemption."

"2020 and the lockdowns around the world saw the universal revisiting of old classics," Blewitt adds. "Board games, puzzles, good old fashioned conversations and a recounting of the 'good old days." What could be more classic than Dickens?"

Though Dickens' tale was penned in the past, it remains alive because it exists in the eternal now. His characters with their foibles, virtues, and needs are universal.

"There is such humanity in every role, such potential in every role, such heartbreak and poetry in every role," Weber says. "It reminds us that we're not just random travelers to the grave. We are the human race together."

Blewitt adds. "The Spirit of the story remains steadfast. The true meaning of the Season of Christmas; the true meaning of the Seasons of Life... There are many parallels between Dickens' world and our own, and I hope that our production has been able to reinvigorate the imagination in terms of viewing a classic tale with an unconventional perspective."

Weber says he's not only looking forward to performing this show at The Denver Fringe Festival, but to taking it to other venues for years to come.

"This show has the element of clown, mime and mania that people enjoy. Going through that journey with me is fun, fast-paced and trippy. At the end of the performance, I imagine Dickens looking down at me, from wherever he is and saying, 'Well done, Chap! That's the spirit! That's the way!'"

Denver Fringe Festival Performances of this show will be at:

The Walnut Room
313 Walnut Street
Denver, Colorado 80205

Showtimes are:

Thursday, June 24th - 8:30 p.m.
Friday, June 25th - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 26th - 8:30 p.m.
Sunday, June 27th - 7:30:p.m.

Runtime is approximately 50 minutes with no intermission.

For Ticket and/or More Information Visit The Denver Fringe Festival Website.

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