Friday, December 1, 2017

Now showing at Ole Olsen...

 It has been my privilege to take part in the production of this play. I'd never seen the process of "putting on a show" before and asked Kurt Schindler if I could watch if I stayed out of the way. I will be forever grateful that he said Yes and never let me stay out of the way even when I really should have. I can't say enough--and haven't; you'll see that when you read this post--about the actors who brought Dickens' characters to life. I hope you come and see the show.
Photograph courtesy of Sarah L. Luginbill

There’s little indication outside the Depot, home of Ole Olsen Memorial Theatre in Peru, Indiana, that there are big doings going on inside. The building is its beautiful, tranquil self, dressed up by the gazebo and the River Walk and the personalized memorial bricks in its paths. 
But inside, the stage is full. Of props, platforms, actors, and the occasional director. And there in the back, where you can sort of see it but sort of not—it’s full back there, too. The walls are black and so are the clothes worn by the cast of director
Kurt Schindler’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The furniture’s eclectic. Noisy. A pink chair should look out of place but doesn’t. So should a red tutu and a dented barrel and a blow-up chicken that needs to pass for a goose. But they don’t.
Scarves are stuffed into Christmas gift bags. Vests hang haphazard and crooked from wall hooks. There are baskets here and there. Shelves that hold…stuff. At least, that’s what it looks like, but when the show begins, you see that things like a curtain, a boot, and a purple brooch have their places.
Photograph courtesy of Laura Stroud
          Schindler’s treatment of the classic story is different. There are more laughs. Some startling moments—the Ghost of Christmas Present has a lovely Irish accent, some roles are non-traditional, and Turkey Boy is…well, you really need to see the show. I’m not going to spoil that particular surprise.
But there are also scenes that, just as they’ve done in every version of the story you’ve ever seen, will break your heart. Most of the cast are Ole Olsen veterans, and their experience and dedication to their art show in their performances.
Photograph courtesy of Laura Stroud
There are new ones, too. Well, not new now. Not after the hours they've spent learning lines and expressions and nuances that have given them other identities. By now, they're seasoned.
“I wrote it hard,” said Schindler. “Maybe too hard. But I love this show. I love this cast.”
Like any other community theater, production has had its difficulties. Illness created the necessity for a last-minute replacement. People have day jobs. School. Sometimes both. There are a lot of lines to learn. Watching from her place at the table in front of the stage, the assistant director watched the process and wondered how they’d get it done. Actually she wondered if they’d get it done.
Media night was Monday, November 27. The performance probably wasn’t seamless—most worthwhile things aren’t—but it was awesome, not a word to be used lightly, nevertheless.
 Laura Stroud, props mistress, said, “We have a show.” She looked satisfied, maybe relieved. But not surprised.
Of course, they have a show. Of course, they “got it done.”
The assistant director shouldn’t have wondered. Shouldn’t have worried about old Joe or Mrs. Cratchit or Scrooge or how that many people were going to dance on the Ole Olsen stage at one time. “They’re troupers,” said Schindler. “They’re all troupers.”

Tickets are still available for the shows. Call 765/472-3680 for reservations. Friday & Saturday Nights: 12/1 & 12/2; 12/8 & 12/9 @ 7:30 p.m. Sunday Matinees: 12/3 & 12/10 @ 2:00 p.m.

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