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Presentation features community, student actors

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FARMINGTON — The Christmas spirit was alive and well — and enthusiastic — at San Juan College on Thursday night, especially in the form of Craig Whitewater, who plays charity solicitor Mr. Jeeves in the college’s production of "A Christmas Carol."

During a scene in the show’s opening night production, Whitewater and his charity assistant, played by Skyler Dugger, entered the set of Scrooge’s office through a lone door. Whitehead’s enthusiasm for the holiday season was apparent as he closed the stand-alone door a little too hard, causing it to to sway precariously as he smiled his holiday greeting to the stone-faced Scrooge, played by Joel Irvin.

“I have to be a lot more sarcastic and mean than what I usually try to be, so that’s been a struggle,” Irvin said of portraying the infamous character on Thursday.

San Juan College is hosting the production with performances at 7 tonight and from Dec. 7-9 at the Little Theatre on the college campus, 4601 College Blvd. in Farmington. The production concludes with a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Dec. 10.

The production is put on in partnership with the School of Humanities technical theater department as part of the college’s Silhouette Series of Performing Arts. Linann Easley, interim theater instructor and director of the Henderson Fine Arts Center, said the series was started when the Fine Arts Center was built in 1994.

Each year, the series includes a production that includes youth and adult actors from the community and students in the theater program. The college has done a variety of comedies, musicals and dramatic productions in the past, but this year could be the start of something new, Easley said.

The community theater productions traditionally have been staged in late October or early November, but Easley and her former colleague, Mollie Mook-Fiddler, who died last year, had plans to change the schedule so the production could correspond with the college’s annual luminarias display.

“We chose to use the 'Christmas Carol' as a starting event (for the luminarias display), and we’d like to make it an annual community event that goes hand in hand with luminarias,” Easley said.

Though this is the first year the Silhouette Series has featured the holiday production during the luminarias display, Easley said she hopes the event becomes a community staple that will continue to grow.

This year’s production is directed by Dallas Padoven, a professional performer based out of New York City but originally from Durango, Colo. Padoven said he has worked in the local theater community, as he has appeared in Sandstone Productions plays in the past. He learned about the directorial opportunity through friends.

It just so happened that Padoven had a couple of spare weeks this fall between appearing in Sacramento Musical Theatre’s production of “Damn Yankees” as Rocky and the start of rehearsals for Walnut Street Theatre’s “Annie” in Philadelphia. Padoven spent three weeks with the cast, which rehearsed for more than two hours a night every weekday for three weeks to prepare for the show. Padoven said he left for Philadelphia in mid-October with the production ready to go and turned over the reins to Easley, who made sure the cast stayed sharp during the twice-weekly rehearsals leading up to the show.

Padoven said he hoped to convey the original tone of Dickens’ writing.

“I personally am very over the story of the 'Christmas Carol,'” Padoven said from Philadelphia today. “I think we’ve heard it a million times. I think we’re so 'Christmas Carol'-ed out, so I really wanted to bring a new light to it. I kind of delved back into the book and into what his original writing was, and it was a little eerie.”

The set was kept intentionally sparse, Padoven said. One scene used only a four-poster bed, a chair and two suspended window frames to convey mid-19th century London, which Padoven described as “dingy and gross, and poverty was everywhere.”

“It’s kind of up to the (audience) to take the tone of the play and the lines that are given to the actors and kind of create their own world around the set,” Padoven said. “Really, we didn’t play into the merry Christmas, jolly, jazz hands dance that we always see '(A) Christmas Carol' become these days. We really delved into a more eerie, sunken, truthful, humanistic 'Christmas Carol.'”

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, and $8 for children 12 and younger at sanjuancollege.edu/silhouette. Call 505-566-3430.

Megan Petersen covers business and education for The Daily Times. Reach her at 505-564-4621 or mpetersen@daily-times.com.

 

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