BWW Blog: 'And … Scene' by Jeffrey Sanzel, Executive Artistic Director, Theatre Three
And so we come to the close of another season of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Forty-nine performances later.
I have been thinking about how to end this series and haven't found the right note. Perhaps it's because this particular show never fully closes. Or more likely, it's because I haven't found a way to end it. So ... I decided to sit down and have a discussion with myself. After I postponed the meeting twice, I finally caught up with me. The following are excerpts from that interview.
"Any ideas for next year?"
One or two. Nothing set. Even during the last week of the run, we made a change in the show.
It was a small idea that I just wanted to try before the show. I explained it. We ran it. I said, "Thank you. We can try it next year." The cast said, "Why don't we do it today?" So we did. New piece. Nothing earth-shattering but something new. It might be there next season. It might not.
"So is that a 'yes' or a 'no?'"
"Oh. Whatever." (Pause.) "So you have shows after Christmas?"
"Do you want to speak to that?"
Not particularly. (Silence.) In many ways, the production culminates with the Christmas Eve show. I refer to this as the "real time" show.
"What do you mean 'real time?'"
I was about to explain when you interrupted.
"Sorry. Go ahead."
In essence, we are doing the play when it takes place (... ish ... sort of ... you get the idea). The first Christmas Eve show we did was in 1993. We had about 150 people. The next year, probably 200. After that, it built quickly. Usually, we have over 400. For much of the audience, it's a tradition ... which makes sense. There's an energy about that I haven't seen with any other production.
"And then after Christmas?"
Then we come to after Christmas. It's jack-o-lanterns on November 3, "a Merry Christmas" is peculiar on December 27. But we do it. Like people who go to the theatre on Sunday nights, those who opt for CHRISTMAS CAROL after Christmas really want to see it. The performances tend to be very focused. The actors are always on their game. I find there's a lot of honesty in the playing.
"Well, that's sort of interesting. I guess."
"So ... what else?"
You're asking the questions.
"Right, right. So ... Are you really like Scrooge?"
That's the best you could come up with?
"Someone had to ask."
Fair enough. Yes. I am.
Dickens put it best: "Scrooge was the ogre of the family."
"So you're ...?"
The. Ogre. Of the family.
We do a good number of student matinees. Seventeen this season. And after each matinee, there's a talkback with the audience. One of the common questions is "Hey, Scrooge, are you that mean in real life?" This always gets a laugh from the cast. An uneasy laugh. And a good amount of looking at the floor.
My stock answer is "The only acting I have to do is in the last ten minutes." The cast dutifully laughs again. They laugh; they don't argue.
The reality is that I am much more the Scrooge of the countinghouse and less that of Christmas morning. I am the fanatical and driving minute-counting "hand at the grindstone" as opposed to the generous, turkey-giver, celebrating life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
"You're not a warm fuzzy?"
No ... Overheard in the dressing room ...
-Did I do something wrong? He looked at me so angry.
-I don't know if that was acting or just him.
-Probably him. It seemed almost real.
You'd think after all these years, I would be less the Scrooge of the Countinghouse and more that of the resurrected Ebenezer of Christmas Morning. Not so much.
"Yeah. I can tell that."
"Nothing. Anything else?"
The theatre has a production of STARTING HERE, STARTING NOW opening January 11. Our own version of CINDERELLA opening January 18. And THE SEVENTEENTH ANNUAL FESTIVAL OF ONE-ACT PLAYS opening on February 1.
"Actually, that's not what I meant. I meant what next for CHRISTMAS CAROL. Not a shameless plug for your next productions."
Well, you should have been more specific.
"Right. So ... anything else ... about A CHRISTMAS CAROL?"
Closing matinee will mark Ben Fogarty's hundredth performance as Tiny Tim. That's a record. Also, Marquez Stewart, our Mrs. Cratchit, celebrates her two hundredth performance closing night.
"You guys like to count performances."
Yes. We do. (Silence.)
"All right. How many?"
Closing night will be 1,126.
"Well, maybe you'll get it right and you can stop."
"Anyone you'd like to thank?
Everyone involved-cast, staff, crew ... And I mean that. I am not the "we're all a big family" kind of person but I truly appreciate that we get an incredible amount from this company. I'd also like to thank Christina and Melissa at Broadwayworld.com for letting me have this opportunity.
"That was very un-Scrooge-like."
"That's all we have time for. Happy New Year."
Yeah. Same to you.