It’s a traditional Christmas story with an old-fashioned element.
This year, the Kaatza Lakeside Players Society’s Christmas play is a timeless classic that will be acted out as a radio play on stage.
Who doesn’t know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the penny-pinching, grumpy Dickensian character, whose life is revealed to him in a series of visits by the ghosts of his past, present and future?
Scrooge is the main character of “A Christmas Carol,” one of the most popular novellas written by the 19th century author, Charles Dickens, and one that continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. It is also a seasonal favourite for theatre groups and audiences the world over.
This year, the Kaatza Lakeside Players (KLP) are putting it on as a radio-on-stage play at Lake Cowichan’s Centennial Hall.
Director Dena McPhee explained to the Gazette how it all came about.
“We were looking for an idea for our Christmas play, and the idea of doing a radio-play intrigued me,” she said. “So I started to look for one, it could have been any Christmas story.”
It was through doing a search on the computer, McPhee says, that she found this version of “A Christmas Carol,” adapted for radio-on-stage by Anthony E. Palermo.
“We’d done “A Christmas Carol” before, but this presented a totally new way to do it,” she said. “It involves that aspect of radio that we seem to have lost in this day and age, which is the ability to use our imaginations and listen.”
Instead of costumes, the actors are dressed in dark colours, with perhaps the accessory of a shawl or scarf that is intended to identify the characters they are playing. As for the set decor, nearly half of the stage is taken up with the sound effects booth, where McKenzie Paterson and Alain Hamilton-Boucher create the ghostly sounds that help bring the story to life.
“It’s been kind of a stretch for the actors,” reflected McPhee, “because we normally have costumes and blocking. Some of them have a lot of experience (on stage) and some of them are brand new.”
Audiences will recognize many of the cast from previous shows, however, the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played by newcomer Edward Lentz.
Also, working on the sound effects on stage are Paterson, who has appeared with KLP before, and newcomer Boucher-Hamilton, recently relocated to Lake Cowichan from the Yukon.
For this show, the usual suspects who look after things like sets and props had a different task to undertake. For example,
Michael Patrick, the play’s technical director, found himself with a couple of challenges in putting together some of the elements that are used for the play’s sound effects.
“This is the first time I’ve done anything like this,” Patrick said. “But I’m a handy kind of guy, jack-of-all-trades, and so on!”
Patrick made the wind machine and the door, two of the items that required being built specifically for the play. Other items, he says, were found in people’s garages and basements
“The fellow that wrote the script for the play does some of these things and you can find it on his website,” explained Patrick. “It’s called Foley art.”
A quick look on Wikipedia reveals that Foley art is the reproduction of everyday sound effects which are added in post production to enhance the quality of audio for films, television, video, and video games. It was named after Jack Foley, who started working with Universal Studios in the silent film era.
On stage, what looks like a large roll of paper is actually a drum covered in canvas, according to Patrick.
“Basically, it’s a piece of – almost like a canvas – taped over a drum,” he explained. “As the slats in the drum rub against the canvas, it makes kind of a whooshing sound. And as you speed it up and slow it down, it changes the pitch. That’s the wind machine.”
What audiences can look forward to when they go to see KLP’s Christmas show is a combination of stage performance and sound effects that will keep them both visually and aurally intrigued.
“A Christmas Carol” opens with a preview performance Dec. 4, and runs Dec. 5-8 in the evenings. Curtain time is at 7 p.m.