From Thursday, Dec. 18 to Sunday, Dec. 21, the Grinnell Community Theatre will be performing “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol: A Traveling Travesty in Two Tumultuous Acts.” The play, written by Mark Landon Smith, deviates from the traditional characters of the holiday production; rather, the performance is a play within a play, depicting the story of the Styckes Upon Thump Repertory Company as they attempt to put on their 15th annual farewell performance of the Dicken’s classic.
In this adaptation, the Styckes Upon Thump Repertory Company struggles to put together its last annual performance of “A Christmas Carol.” When the star of the show feigns illness in the hopes that the production will be canceled, she is shocked to find out that the show has gone on without her. The Smith play is a comedy, with the community actors playing the actors of a clueless British repertoire company.
This Christmas Carol production marks the directorial debut of Professor Sig Barber, German, though he has performed in various plays on campus and around town.
“When you mention to people that you’re doing ‘A Christmas Carol,’ they say, ‘Oh no not again another performance of “A Christmas Carol,”’” Barber said. “So when I was looking at scripts, I wanted something very different. I had not intended to do a comedy.”
Barber also kept an eye toward cast size when choosing a script, remaining cognizant that he wanted to include actors in the community but did not want to overwhelm the theater space.
Tom Lacina, who plays the company’s Sir Selsdon Piddock who plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, originally planned to help out with the play backstage until Barber told Lacina he needed more help onstage.
“[Playing Scrooge] just kind of flows naturally. I’m a character actor so I just embrace the character,” Lacina said. “It’s a comedy, very physical with a lot of physical humor and strange things happening, so it isn’t like I’m doing ‘Death of a Salesman.’”
Lacina is no stranger to the stage. Before practicing law in Grinnell under Charnetski, Olson & Lacina LLP, Lacina was a music major in college with a minor in theater. He even considered pursuing a graduate degree in music composition.
“I think law requires an ability to look at an audience, which I think the jury is to some extent. Making sure they’re intrigued and interested in the case and whether they find you to be genuine. But I don’t think I was trying to do a smokescreen anyway. I tend to be pretty straightforward in my approach,” Lacina said.
Barber similarly finds overlap in his work as a German language and literature professor at Grinnell and his work in the community theater. When studying literature, he tries to incorporate dramatic literature. Next semester, Barber will teach at the prison program and incorporate “The Arsonist,” which the Grinnell Community Theatre will perform next semester, into his syllabus. The theater troop will visit the prison to perform the play when the students reach that point in the syllabus.
Barber acknowledged that putting on a community play in a small town has a very different process than putting together a play in a large city.
“I think in a big city, you have a lot more people who try out so you might be able to be a bit more choosy, Barber said. “Although I think I have the best cast … no matter what. It’s a very talented group of people.”
Interested attendees can purchase tickets at Grinnell Arts Center, Brown’s Shoe Fit and McNally’s for $15 (adults) and $5 (students).