'A Christmas Carol' graces downtown Hood River

For the first time in years, Hood River’s performing arts group, CAST, is staging a “theater in the round.” And they couldn’t have picked a better production.

Judy Yeo is directing a cast of eight in “A Christmas Carol,” staged in the ballroom at the Hood River Hotel Friday and Saturday.

The performance will take place in and among the tables — and the audience.

“I call this type of theater we are doing ‘theater in the round,’ Yeo said. But, she noted, most theater in the round performances are still done on a stage. “What we are doing, then, goes beyond that and creates a greater challenge. We really take the play to the audience, and in essence, tell them, ‘You are a part of the play.’”

Staging a production this way presents many challenges, Yeo said.

“It’s getting the actors to understand that they’re going to be working around people — that there will be a lot more commotion going on than usual,” she said. It also means that props have to be minimal, since the actors have to move objects — often by themselves and quickly. And making the lighting work in such an unusual space has taken work.

“We’re going from tall ceilings and free area to low ceilings with all kinds of things hanging down,” said Yeo, who credits lighting technician Al Tengwall with “making the thing work.” Even rehearsals at the hotel have been different.

“We’re used to throwing all our junk around,” Yeo said, laughing. “But this is a business, so we have to clean up after ourselves.”

Yeo and her cast have successfully tackled the challenges and come up with a fun rendition of the holiday classic.

Gary Young is once again playing Ebenezer Scrooge — a role for which he was widely praised the last time CAST performed “A Christmas Carol” at the Performing Arts Center in 1998.

Most of the other actors play several parts in the production. Lisa Vincenzo, a newcomer to CAST, plays Mrs. Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas Past, as well as a Charwoman. Jim Bull, long-time board member of CAST, plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, Jacob Marley’s Ghost and a couple of other characters.

Theresa North deftly juggles Mrs. Fezziwig, Martha, a Laundress and Fan. Veteran CAST actor Keith Doroski plays Bob Cratchit and another minor part. Brent Sholar plays Scrooge’s nephew, Fred. Lynn Lewis plays the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. And 8-year-old Maggie Sholar plays Tiny Tim, a Reader, a Boy on the Street and Young Scrooge.

“Maggie’s kind of the jewel in our crown,” Yeo said. “The way she speaks and looks — I knew she was going to be a heart-melter, and she is.”

Yeo praised the cast for pulling off “what may on the surface seem to be a simple piece.”

“Because this adaptation is meant for a limited cast, it requires the actors to work that much harder on their characterizations so the audience sees each character as a different entity,” said Yeo, adding that most are also “doing narration, moving set pieces, changing costumes, and in some cases supplying sound effects.”

Yeo took some liberties with the Christopher Shario adaptation of the play.

“I said to the actors, ‘Play with your parts and see what we can come up with’,” Yeo said. As a result, some of the characters — like Vincenzo’s Ghost of Christmas Past — have some added quirks that bring a touch of humor to even some of the serious scenes.

The ballroom will be the site of the performance, but the lobby and restaurant will be getting into the act as well. Hotel General Manager Cathy Butterfield and some of her staff plan to dress in period attire. The restaurant’s menu for the two nights has been revised to include such fare as baked peacock pie and plum pudding.

“We did some research for that century,” Butterfield said of the culinary changes. Tickets for the performance include appetizers, cookies and warm drinks. But people can come early — or stay late — for dinner, which will be served in Pasquale’s Ristorante, from 5 to 9 p.m.

Yeo and her cast have been rehearsing for the past two months for their theater in the round performance, and they’re ready, according to Yeo.

“It’s been a challenge, but isn’t it going to be cool!” Yeo said. “I think it’s going to be a real great beginning to kick off the holiday season.”

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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