The ideal situation for any artist is when you can develop a quality product and use it for the good of the community.
This is the goal of a filmed version of “A Christmas Carol” that is being streamed this holiday season. The one-man version of the Charles Dickens’ classic stars Jefferson Mays, who in theater circles is one of the most respected actors in the business.
More important, the producer, TBD Theatricals, is enlisting local theater companies to partner with them and share in the revenues produced by the streaming. They have invited any, and all, local not-for-profit theater companies throughout the United States to offer the show to their audience base. The companies who participate get 40% of each ticket sale sold in their area.
It sounds almost too good to be true. But a telephone call to TBD Theatricals verified the details of the arrangement. The producers and creative talent realize local theater companies have lost more than 80% of their normal annual revenue. Many, because of Covid-19, are in danger of going out of business. The thought is a new version of a popular holiday show, with a major star, could provide needed revenue at a critical time. They hope this plan can help save local theater companies.
The phone call also revealed, rather surprisingly, that there are 57 partners throughout the country, but no theater company from this area is participating.
I again emphasize there is no demand on size or professional status to participate in the revenue sharing. The only requirement is the partner be a not-for-profit.
Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill, the producing-artistic director of Capital Repertory Theatre in Albany and part of the Proctors Collaborative, gives her seal of approval to the project. “Anything involving Jefferson Mays is something I want to be involved in. He’s a giant in the world of theater. From what I know, this is a quality production.”
However, she decided after much soul-searching and hand-wringing to pass on the offer to participate. She explains that because she has over 3,000 subscribers who have already invested in a series of plays that Cap Rep is unable to produce, the thought of asking money from her supporters for a separate event would be unfair. “Our policy is to only offer our subscribers streaming product that is free from charge,” she says.
The show was originally produced in 2018 at Geffin Playhouse in Los Angeles. It was met with rave reviews both for Mays’ performance and for its approach to the material. The production is offered in the form of a dramatic reading. It uses Dickens’ original text, which after decades of adaptations has been almost totally neglected. As a character is introduced Mays, the narrator, transforms into that person or spirit. He plays over 50 characters.
TBD Theatricals is upfront in saying this production is not the traditional cheery, almost sentimental version of “A Christmas Carol” that has become a popular holiday entertainment. The central theme is still Scrooge’s redemption, but just as the show adheres to the original text, it also adheres to the original concept.
That concept, they say, is the tale of a ghost story. Scrooge faces genuine terror in his journey to redemption. Indeed, the producers‘ mantra is “This is not your momma’s “A Christmas Carol.’”
This show is not a recording of the original production. It was recently filmed with streaming in mind. It happened in an empty theater in New York City, which ironically is a perfect metaphor for the intent behind the production. A common saying within the industry is “Theatre will survive, but a lot of theaters won’t.”
There is still time for local theaters to become participants in the project. Interested organizations can apply by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The show streams November 28 through January 3 and can be obtained at www.achristmascarol.com.
Bob Goepfert is theater reviewer for the Troy Record.
The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.