As HV1 reported back in August (https://hudsonvalleyone.com/2021/08/25/citron-passes-torch-to-wykoff-as-rosendale-theatre-reopens), the Rosendale Theatre’s longtime executive director, Ann Citron, recently switched hats to the one that truly fit her best all along: organizing live theatrical events for the cinema’s rebuilt stage. And now the fruits of her labors are beginning to bloom. This weekend, December 17 and 18, the Theatre will be reborn as a live venue by hosting a highly unusual, interactive production of a beloved holiday chestnut: A Christmas Carol – “our first live show since the change,” Citron notes.
In any given December, one can typically find a plethora of different ways of enjoying Charles Dickens’ classic tale of a grumpy miser’s spectral comeuppance. COVID-19 put a dent in the number of Scrooges on offer in the Hudson Valley, however. For example, the Ulster Ballet Company’s dance version – a tradition dating back a quarter of a century – went on hiatus in 2020 (except for a streamed version of the 2019 production) and will not be back this year.
But the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck managed to continue its 16-year run of A Christmas Carol last year by using the building’s loading dock as a stage and inviting audiences to watch from their parked cars. That show will go on indoors this year, with social distancing measures in place. And with public gatherings a little safer now, Theatre on the Road/Murder Café has been able to revive its 23-year-old traveling dinner-theatre version of the tale (see sidebar for venues and dates).
So, what makes the upcoming production of A Christmas Carol at the Rosendale Theatre especially worthy of our attention? “It’s totally immersive,” says Citron. The stage magic is being provided by No.11 Productions, a New York City-based troupe that “believes in the energizing power of sharing stories full of hope and teamwork and strives to engage our audience as collaborators in the act of storytelling,” according to its mission statement.
In other words, if you want to be a minor character in the story, you’ll be offered that chance. “There are 17 roles available for audience members,” Citron explains. “When they come in, we talk to them. If they want to participate, we give them a piece of paper with whatever their part is, and one prop or costume piece – a hat or a scarf. They’ll be seated at the café tables up front. When their time comes, we usher them into the troupe. Even kids can have a part.”
If you opt in, you’ll likely have a line or two of dialogue to deliver. But you’ll be fully coached through your bit. “The cast will fold them in. They’ll be well-taken-care-of,” says Citron. “Everything is facilitated by the company.”
Does the very thought of getting up there alongside professional actors fill you with instant stage fright? Fear not: A lower level of interactivity will also be available. During the scene of the raucous Christmas party at the home of Scrooge’s colleague Mr. Fezziwig, there will be live music, and the dancing will spill off the stage, onto the dancefloor, out the side doors of the Theatre and up and down the aisles. Audience members will be invited to join in the Victorian line dance, so choose an aisle seat if this idea tickles your fancy. It’s a cherished intermission tradition at the Christmas Revels, so if you’ve ever attended one of those productions and been swept up into “Lord of the Dance,” you’ll have an idea of what to expect.
Not everyone will want to be an active participant in the show, of course, and that’s okay, too. Just don’t grab a café table seat or block the aisles if all you want to do is watch. The Rosendale Theatre doesn’t usually sell tickets with assigned seating, but No.11’s A Christmas Carol is a special case.
This show is directed by Ryan Emmons, co-artistic director of No.11 Productions. With the exception of Forest VanDyke as Ebenezer Scrooge, the core cast of actors play multiple roles. Citron herself joins in as Mrs. Cratchit and Mrs. Fezziwig, and the merry Ghost of Christmas Present – who gets to do a song – will be portrayed by Hudson Valley drag artist Pinky Socrates. Also performing will be Julie Congress, Steven Conroy, Alison Novelli and Neysy Vicente. Original music and sound design are by Enrico de Trizio, with puppetry and props by Jen Neads and Danny Tieger and costumes by Kathleen Blanchard and Julie Congress.
Asked in an interview with Citron why it makes sense to mount a new production of an old holiday staple at this point in history, director Emmons responds that the story’s themes of “hope and redemption” are always timely. “In one of the most poignant moments in the story, Scrooge sees his future self and asks in horror, ‘Am I that man?’” he notes. “How often do we reflect on who we are and how we treat others? This piece celebrates the fact that we can always get better and that no matter how lost we may feel, there is always hope.”
No.11 Productions’ A Christmas Carol will be presented at the Rosendale Theatre at 7 p.m. on Friday, December 17 and at 2 and 7 p.m. on Saturday, December 18. Tickets cost $20 general admission, $15 for children aged 12 and under, and can be ordered at www.rosendaletheatre.org/events/a-christmas-carol. You can also view the production virtually anytime on the 18th by making a minimum suggested donation of $10 at www.paypal.com/donate/?hosted_button_id=6LZVE7562Q9QU.
The Rosendale Theatre is located at 408 Main Street (Route 213) in Rosendale. Installation of a new state-of-the-art air filtration and ventilation system has been completed, making the building safer. Ample parking is available in the rear of the Theatre.
Also playing in the mid-Hudson this month:
Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck
A Christmas Carol, directed by Lou Trapani, with musical direction by Paul and JoAnne Schubert, starring Rik Lopes as Scrooge with Jovan Bradley, Andy Crispell, Ellie DeMan, Joe Felece, Harriet Luongo, Duane Joseph Olson and Jody Satriani.
December 3 to 19, Fridays (except December 17) and Saturdays at 7 p.m., Sundays at 3 p.m.
661 Route 308, Rhinebeck
Theatre on the Road/Murder Café
A Christmas Carol, an interactive dinner theatre experience, directed by Frank Marquette.
Wednesday, December 8, 7 p.m.
The Venue Uptown (Best Western), Washington Avenue, Kingston
Saturday, December 11, 6-8 p.m.
Historic Hotel Broadalbin Marker, 59 West Main Street, Broadalbin
Wednesdays, December 15 and 22, 7-9 p.m.
Sunday, December 19, 5- 7 p.m.
Beekman Arms & Delamater Inn, 6387 Mill Street, Rhinebeck
Saturday, December 18, 5-7 p.m.
Meadowbrook Lodge, New Windsor