CATCO presents ‘A Christmas Carol’ from a new perspective
“A Columbus Christmas Carol” transforms the miser Ebenezer Scrooge into Ebony Scrooge, a modern African-American woman obsessed with her career.
CATCO’s new holiday show, which airs Wednesday-December 27 as the first major production of its pandemic-delayed 2020-21 season, embodies a more inclusive vision for the future of professional theater by its premier team of all-female leadership.
“Our hope is that showing Scrooge as a different gender and race than we usually see makes this character more universal. … It’s our role to tell these modern stories, to make new pieces and to make sure they’re contemporary, ”said Leda Hoffmann, who moved from Chicago to Columbus in August to become artistic director of CATCO .
“Our first feature film under my direction tells a story of redemption (…) in an American city with housing needs, divested neighborhoods and predatory loans,” Hoffmann said.
Executive Director Christy Farnbauch shares Hoffmann’s love for the Dickensian fable and his mission to improve diversity, relevance and representation.
“People need to be represented on stage,” said Farnbauch, who in April became executive director of CATCO (Contemporary American Theater Company) as part of a new model of shared leadership.
“We’re also looking at the ‘contemporary’ part of our name… with a contemporary narrative of a timeless story,” said Farnbauch.
CATCO worked closely with Detroit playwright Julianna Gonzalez to adapt the play to Columbus for its second production after its 2019 premiere under the title “Blessed: A Christmas Carol Adaptation” at the Black and Brown Theater in Detroit.
“Especially today, it is important that all the stories reflect each other’s experience, so that we can see each other,” said Gonzalez, whose mother immigrated from Colombia and his father from Puerto Rico.
“Dickens’ story is at the heart of the transformation, so having black and brown characters, a black woman like Scrooge and people speaking Spanish makes her more accessible,” she said.
Although she said her 55-minute one-act act followed the ‘canonical’ foundations of the Dickensian short story of 1843, Gonzalez modernized the dialogue, updating the story through pre-pandemic 2019. and located it (initially in Detroit, now in Columbus).
“Everything else was up for grabs,” Gonzalez said.
For example, she makes Scrooge’s kind sister, Fanny, the narrator, while Scrooge’s ghosts become gentler guides.
“We’re having a little more fun using ghosts for comedy,” Gonzalez said.
Patricia Wallace-Winbush plays Ebony.
“This is no longer about an old white man in a nightgown, but an uplifting story applicable to anyone,” she said.
Ebony grew up in the Linden neighborhood of Columbus and runs a payday loan company.
“She is a strong woman who has dedicated her entire life to making this business work and, in her opinion, to helping people improve themselves,” said Wallace-Winbush. “But Ebony is really hurting people with outrageous interest rates, fees and delays.”
The veteran Columbus performer has also worked with CATCO executives Geoffrey Nelson, who co-founded and led the cast from 1985-2010, and Steven C. Anderson, who retired in July after leading CATCO for 10 years. as artistic director of production.
While respecting Nelson and Anderson for their commitment to quality and diversity, Wallace-Winbush applauds Hoffmann for bringing “a whole new perspective, good for keeping the theater fresh.”
“CATCO is changing because the world is changing. People are more and more open, and Leda accepts it. I think women should be in charge anyway! We can be just as tough, but still understanding of the views of others, ”said Wallace-Winbush.
Under his new leadership, CATCO will become more inclusive and collaborative, predicts Board Chair Krista Hazen. “You’ll see stories we’ve never told before, more diverse characters and more diverse people working behind the scenes,” she said.
The holiday show, “with a new twist appropriate for adults and families,” also fulfills Hoffmann’s goal of forging closer ties between CATCO and CATCO Is Kids, his drama program for young people, Hazen said. . (Hoffmann previously ran the Strawdog Theater Company, a 32-year-old theater in Chicago producing mainstage seasons and annual youth productions.)
As CATCO’s first major streaming production (as part of a 2020-21 streaming season, featuring a winter new works festival, winter play, spring musical and spring show for young people to announce), the holiday play is an experience.
“Going forward, CATCO will operate like a start-up… experimenting, making adjustments and trying the next thing,” said Farnbauch. “Even when we come back to live shows, a new hybrid business model may offer opportunities for digital programming.
Hoffman, for his part, is excited about the possibilities.
“I love the variety of CATCO, with brand new plays, shows where you have fun and plays that make you think,” she said.
“We play serious, emotional pieces – like our ‘Christmas Carol’, CATCO’s way of bringing joy and kindness to the world during a difficult holiday time.”
In one look
CATCO will air “A Columbus Christmas Carol” at 7:30 pm Wednesday until December 27th. Tickets cost $ 20 for the opening night or a 24-hour virtual pass; or a $ 55 pass for the 2020-21 CATCO season, including “Carol”. Call 614-469-0939 or visit www.catco.org.