Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Special Note from A Christmas Carol Cast Member Valerie Chamness aka Ghost of Christmas Past



At Christmas time, every year of my childhood, we'd pull out a special VHS tape full of Christmas specials taped from TV shows. The first thing on the tape was Mickey's Christmas Carol, and to this day, when I watch it (yes, I still have a VHS player), it truly puts me in the Christmas spirit. Today, I'm proud to be playing a role that was immortalized by Jiminy Cricket, and hope to do it justice (although the wedding dress/top of the Christmas tree angel costume makes it quite a different take on the character). When the audience sees this show, I hope that it can bring up childhood memories for them, as it does for me. In that way, I will truly be the Ghost of Christmas Past! If it brings them joy and happiness to remember their past Christmases, then I think I've done Mister Dickens' work justice. For children hearing this story for the first time, I hope that the Christmas spirit can infuse them, and it can be the beginning of a tradition at this magical time of year. It's so important to teach our young the importance of living one's life as a kind and charitable person, and the journey of Ebeneezer Scrooge conveys that message better than any other Christmas story I know. Joy of the season to all of our patrons, and I look forward to spreading Christmas cheer and lots of 
glitter to you all!

~Valerie Chamness, aka Ghost of Christmas Past


Friday, December 6, 2013

Meet the Cast of A Christmas Carol!

Benjamin Ashton (Dick Wilkins & Skater)

Clare Baker (Belinda Cratchit) is excited to join the wonderful cast and crew of A Christmas Carol. Clare is a fourteen year old freshman at Woodson H.S. Past performances with LTA: A Christmas Carol (Belinda Cratchit), A Christmas Carol (Fan Scrooge), Gypsy (Newsboy); and PWLT’s Bye Bye Birdie (Ursula Merkle), ESP’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Mustardseed Fairy), RMT’s Annie (Tessie), and CFTC’s Annie Get Your Gun (Nellie). Thanks Linda Wells, JCCNV Dance Academy and family.

Elliot Bales (Marley, Christmas Present, & Christmas Future) returns to LTA following a successful production of Rossum’s Universal Robots with The Naked Theater Company. The Alexandria, Virginia-based actor returned to performing following a 26 year career as a US Army officer, appearing in 33 Variations, Morgan in The Drawer Boy (Port City Playhouse), A Christmas Carol (LTA), Woman in Black (LTA) and Romeo and Juliet (ACCT). He has also performed in TV and film and narrates audio books.

Ashton Barnes (Older Belle) is a 10th grader at West Potomac, and this is her third show at The little Theatre and her second time being in A Christmas Carol. Ashton has also performed with MVCCT, Carl Sandburg, and one acts at West Potomac. Her most recent play was The Pink panther strikes again with MVCCT. She enjoys sports, plays varsity field hockey, and theater and writing are her passions.

Amy Bevilacqua (Mrs. Cratchit) did a lot of theatre in high school and college, but this is her first time on stage in 25 years! She is thrilled to be doing this show with her entire family (David, Charlie and Natalie Ruppe).

Valerie Chamness (Christmas Past) recently Valerie would like to thank Mickey Mouse, Scrooge McDuck, Kermit the Frog, and Gonzo for introducing her to this classic Christmas story so many years ago. She also thanks her supportive, wonderful husband for being a real grown up, while she runs around doing community theatre. Her greatest thanks goes to the audience, without who's patronage, she would be out of a job. Merry Christmas too all!

Gary Cramer (Bob Cratchit) comes full circle at LTA with this show, as Mr. Cratchit was his debut role in local theaters after being found stuffed in the props closet in an amnesiac stupor in 2005. In search of his real identity ever since, he has also pretended to be other people in LTA's Nude With Violin and Twentieth Century, Terra Nova for PCP, Twelve Angry Men for ACCT, and November for DS, among others.

Jack Dewhurst (Young Scrooge) is in 8th grade at St. Stephens & St. Agnes School, where he participates in the drama programs. He has had limited experience on stage, with his most notable show a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He loves acting and is very excited to be a part of an LTA production.

Robert Ford (Pawnbroker Joe & Gentleman) is very excited to be back at LTA, where he last appeared as Policeman/Detective in Witness for the Prosecution, is no stranger to A Christmas Carol, having participated in staged readings with the Victorian Society at Falls Church. Despite having at one time or another read the lines of most of the major characters including Old Joe, the pawnbroker, he is nonetheless properly daunted to find himself filling shoes previously worn by LTA veterans who have previously performed this role.

Stephanie Frazier (Young Belle) is a junior at Fairfax High School for the Arts! She is thrilled to be in her 4th performance of Christmas Carol. She hopes the audience enjoys the shows!

Erin Gallalee (Mrs. Dilber & Narrator) This is Erin’s 4th production of A Christmas Carol at LTA and she’s thrilled to be back again! This play was the first she performed in as a child and it holds a special place in her heart (she played Tiny Tim!). Other LTA productions include The Woman in Black and The Secret Garden. She has been performing in the DC theatre community, with many wonderful companies, since 1998.

Kathryne Gould (Belle Girl) is 10 years old and she is a fourth grade student at Alexandria Country Day School. She was born in Alexandria and she enjoys acting, running cross country, and spending time with her family and friends. After spending time at LTA’s Christmas in August camp this past summer, she has wanted to be a part of the production of A Christmas Carol ever since. Dreams can come true as she performs in this year’s ensemble cast and as one of Belle’s family children.

Pamela Johnson (Mother Cratchit) is one of our talented “local” Virginians who manifests her flair for The Arts through acting, writing, singing and dancing. She is a VCU graduate with a double BS in Education and Rehabilitation which she’s used while working with children with disabilities. Pamela has taken part in several of LTA’s acting classes, including the One Acts and the Improvisation classes. She has turned her talents to several LTA productions, most recently, A Christmas Carol.

Fred C. Lash (Scrooge) is extremely pleased to be performing once again on the LTA stage. Appearing as Hucklebee in “The Fantasticks” in 1990, he returned in “Strange Bedfellows,” “The Little Foxes,” “Deathtrap,” and “Footloose.” His favorite roles in other Northern Virginia community theatres include Pappy Yokum in “L’il Abner,” H.C. Curry in “The Rainmaker,” and Henry Drummond in “Inherit the Wind.” Fred works for the State Department and lives in Springfield with his extremely patient and understanding wife of more than 45 years, Donna.

Daniel Lavanga (Caroline's Husband, Narrator, & Businessman) favorite roles include Bernard in Arcadia (RLT), Frank in Red Herring (PGLT), Bottom in Midsummer Nights Dream (SMP), Orsino in Twelfth Night (ASGT) and many Christmas Carols at PGLT. He has also worked as a Producer, Stage Manager and Set Designer.

Charles Lourens (Fred & Businessman) Classically untrained, Charles is basically a savage from Africa (He is from South Africa), with only one thing keeping him in the production, his lovely accent! Charles has recently attended Saturday-morning Acting 1 classes, at the Little Theatre of Alexandria, under the wonderful guidance of Seven-time Emmy-winning and five-time Telly-winning TV host and producer, Mike Baker. This is Charles' theatrical debut, please be nice! Charles is a handyman and is looking forward to building a display-case for a future Tony award.

Isabella Lovain (Hope) is a sophomore at TC Williams high school. This is her second time playing a female Peter in LTA's A Christmas Carol. Isa performed in TC's one acts this spring and fall. Isa is an optimist and loves photography and psychology. She has fairly serious concert and Icebreaker addictions. She is currently writing a book.

Christina Lyster (Caroline) is a stay at home mom to three sweet children, Isabel, Seneca, and Quinn. She taught secondary English in a past life, and has fond memories of reading A Christmas Carol with her middle school students many years ago. Aside from performing a small part in her high school’s production of Grease, this is her first on-stage acting experience.

Isabel Lyster (Ignorance & Belle Girl) is a kindergartener at Clermont Elementary School. She was very excited to audition for this play and couldn’t believe that she got a part. Her favorite drink is milk because it is just so tasty. She loves to swim and act, and she would be delighted to give you her autograph after the show. A Christmas Carol is her first (official) live performance.

Seneca Lyster (Want & Belle Girl) is is a kindergartener at Clermont Elementary School. She’s a goofy girl, but she tries to hold in her wiggles during school and at rehearsals. She has wanted to act on stage since before she can remember. She has a twin sister named Isabel, with whom she has put on many a performance at home. She love, love, loves to dance, craft and paint. A Christmas Carol is her first (official) live performance.

Suzanne Martin (Mrs. Pipchin) is excited to be performing in her third Christmas Carol production at LTA. She is grateful to be cast in a show with such a beautiful message of renewal and Christmas spirit. Suzanne was most recently seen in the role of Sandy Stier in "8" and prior to that in her favorite role as M'Lynn in Steel Magnolias. She thanks her husband and daughters for their patience and support during the Christmas season.

Bob McGrath (Fezziwig) A former professional actor with 4 national tours to his credit, Bob returned to the stage last year after a 26 year hiatus. He joined the Lake of the Woods Players in an attempt to lead a more active lifestyle and landed the role of Colonel Pickering in their production of "My Fair Lady", in which he sat in an easy chair and pretended to read the paper for 3 hours. Love to Emily, Maggie and Bud.

Griffin Melley (Tiny Tim) is a happy six-year-old Kindergartener who lives in Alexandria. He loves to play the piano, ride bikes, play sports, read books, play with his sister Quinn, and eat!

Michelle Newman (Mrs. Fezziwig & Narrator) is is thrilled to be making her Virginia debut with The Little Theatre of Alexandria. She has performed in community theater productions in Maryland, North Carolina, and New York. Michelle would like to thank her very understanding husband, Jahn, for all his support.

Anders Ogelman (Boy Scrooge) Anders is in the 4th grade at Stratford Landing Elementary School. He loves acting, filmmaking, literature, writing and science. He previously attended Caversham Preparatory School, in Caversham, England, where he played Dr. Who in the school’s Dr. Who-themed Christmas play. Anders saw LTA’s A Christmas Carol last year and was inspired to audition this year, with the encouragement of his friend Charlie who is also performing in the production.

Nicole Owens (Cratchit Girl) is a 7th grader at Longfellow Middle School. In addition to participating in school theater, she has played a village child in the Mariinsky Opera’s War and Peace and an angel in the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center. She also was in It's a Wonderful Life and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever with Providence Players of Fairfax. Nicole enjoys gymnastics, reading, and playing with her dog, rabbit and chinchilla.

Erik Peyton (Turkey Boy) is making his theatrical debut. He is thrilled for this wonderful opportunity. Erik participates in the fourth grade Advanced Academic Program and enjoys lunch and recess. After school, he engages in Cub Scouts and has achieved the rank of Webelo I. He also enjoys Tae Kwon Do and is currently striving to earn his black belt. He is a budding music enthusiast as he begins to learn violin and guitar.

Hannah Runner (Martha) After seeing A Christmas Carol here at The Little Theater last year, Hannah immediately declared she was going to try out for the role of Martha. She did and is thrilled to get this role. As a student at Sandburg Middle School, Hannah is active in the theater program and is also a member of the Choralettes, an audtioned women’s choir. Her passions are singing and acting.

Charlie Ruppe (Cratchit Boy) was Turkey Boy in last year’s LTA production of A Christmas Carol and couldn’t wait to audition for this year’s production. He is excited to be performing with his entire family this year, and his good friend, Anders Ogelman!

David Ruppe (Topper & Gentleman) has never performed on stage, but his mom’s name is Carol, he loves Christmas, and he was inspired by his stint as Assistant Stage Manager in last year’s LTA production of A Christmas Carol.

Natalie Ruppe (Belle Child) is is making her stage debut in this production, and wants to thank her drama teacher Heather Sanderson, for all of her encouragement! Natalie was inspired by seeing her older brother Charlie perform in last year’s production and has been waiting all year to audition for this show!

Caroline Schreiber (Mary) is delighted to be part of LTA’s A Christmas Carol. Caroline holds a BA in Theatre Performance from Scripps College in California, and has recently appeared as Rosalind in As You Like It (Fat & Greasy Citizens Brigade and St. Mark's Players), Hannah in Arcadia (St. Mark's Players), and Mabel in An Ideal Husband (Montgomery Playhouse) In her daily life, Caroline is the Programs Manager/Producer at Encore Stage & Studio in Arlington. She thanks Hugh, Gavin, and Mickey Mouse for their seasonal spirit.

Rachel Watson (Ruth) is excited to dive into Dickens in her first production with LTA. Previously she has appeared with the Fat and Greasy Citizens Brigade: As You Like It (Phoebe/Le Beau), St. Mark's Players: As you Like It (Phoebe/Le Beau), The Secret Garden (Claire), Arcadia (Chloe), Inherit the Wind (Rachel Brown) and Two Gentlemen of Verona (Julia). Special thanks to Hugh, Gavin and the Muppets for their Christmas inspiration.

Madeline Carol Zuppert (Fan & Urchin) is thrilled to be in her first theatrical performance, A Christmas Carol. Madeline has danced in the Winter Concert and Hook with Metropolitan School of the Arts where she has taken ballet, tap, and hip hop classes. When Madeline is not attending first grade at Clermont, she loves to dance, sing, and play soccer. Madeline would like to thank her parents for their support and chauffeuring her to rehearsals.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The True Meaning of (A) Christmas (Carol – by Charles Dickens) - By cast member Elliot Bales



Every year LTA produces a version of A Christmas Carol based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella for our community. It will be one of thousands of live performances of this classic to be performed throughout the DC Metro area this holiday season. There will be musicals, dances, puppet shows, even a phone-in version of this story produced in our region and audiences will flock to them all. But why do “spirits walk the earth and why do they come to” our stages year after year after year? Isn’t the story of ole’ Ebenezer Scrooge dated and passé? Or is there some compelling, timeless reason we are drawn to Tiny Tim’s jubilant “God bless us every one”?

First, Scrooge has garnered a maligned reputation over the years. He has become synonymous with meanness, perhaps even a little evil. In fact, Scrooge just doesn’t care. He cares about and for no human being. He lives only with the immediacy of the present moment, with no reflection on what went before or thought for what comes next (cue ye olde ghosties). If he had an iPhone, he would never look up from it, and his only communications would be with those who wanted to borrow or needed to pay money. He remains disconnected from all humanity, though his links to the information of the day delude him into thinking he knows what transpires around him. His journey to redemption reminds us that emotions and experiences will not be repressed forever, and are difficult to compress into an hour-long story, much less 144 characters or the average Facebook post.

Second, the Ghost of Jacob Marley speaks a warning to all of us in our daily, urban and suburban lives. He reminds us that our overwhelming focus on near term or instant gratification will forever be unfulfilled (“not to know, that ages of incessant labour…for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed”). He uncomfortably convicts us of our head down, metro-riding, head-in-our-devices behaviors (“Why did I walk through crowds of my fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Men to a poor abode!”). He cautions us that delay in not using our good fortune and good will to reach out to friends, family, and neighbors results in despair (“Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life's opportunity misused!”). He preaches to us more fervently than any minister, and thankfully, more briefly and efficiently.

Finally, the message of redemption showers on us presents of hope and change. Dicken’s personifies in his Ghosts our own innate ability to come to grips with our past, to look up from our wired selves in order to connect us in real time with the very real people around us, and to use whatever we have at hand to enrich our world in days to come. Scrooge is not transformed from miser to philanthropist, from sinner to saved. Rather, his isolation is transformed to inward reflection, and his self-centered world is changed to world awareness. He ceases to be a man who would, in today’s world, sit in a dark room (or even a crowded place) with eyes fixed to a screen and earbuds blocking out the world, into a man who revels in the sights and sounds and smells of the reality that is all around them. And in this moment, he is redeemed from a life of wealthy worthlessness to a life of humble human richness.

So let us bundle up against the winter chill and sortie into the bustling world of people. Let us take our seats among the masses in theaters across the land and greet each other warmly with the joys of the season. Let us roam the streets afterwards and tuck up in the vast array of public places to discuss with our friends, new and old, the wonders of what we have seen, and to share with our children what they have learned. In fact, let us make the feelings that draw us to Mr. Dickens’ story each year the mantra for our everyday lives. And let us all shout lustily and heartily with the cast and Tiny Tim: “God bless us every one.”

Elliot Bales as Marley in LTA's A Christmas Carol