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OU School of Drama opens 'A Christmas Carol' just in time for holiday season

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A Christmas Carol

Performers onstage for the "A Christmas Carol" dress rehearsal Nov. 29.

After months of living, breathing and rehearsing a classic Christmas story, the cast is ready for audiences to see their craft.

Students in OU’s School of Drama will perform the classic Charles Dickens tale “A Christmas Carol,” which opens Nov. 30.

The show, adapted and directed by former School of Drama director and current professor Tom Orr, revolves around the elderly Ebenezer Scrooge, a bitter man who goes on a supernatural journey with the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future. Throughout the tale, Scrooge learns about himself and the people around him.

Orr’s adaptation takes more of the dialogue and language from the original tale, said acting senior Ashtonn Thompson, who plays the second solicitor in the show.

“It’s fun trying to really transcribe the words that Charles Dickens gave us and getting to really tell the story that he wrote, other than the story that has been adapted by my professor or playwright after playwright after playwright,” Thompson said. “It’s fun to really go back to the meat and the rawness of it and getting to really tell this story the way it might have wanted to be written.”

Dramaturg and acting senior Abigail Schmitz said Orr originally planned on approaching Dickens’ tale from an American or Oklahoman standpoint. However, it didn’t turn out that way, and instead Orr opted to maintain the more classic, Victorian era for the story, she said.

Schmitz said the show is special to Orr and is a production he has been in more than 200 times.

“I think to put on his own (‘A Christmas Carol’) and adapt it — it’s just a show that he’s very familiar with and probably feels like his family,” Schmitz said. “The students have really enjoyed how important they see it is to him and how they can put that on.”

Rehearsals for the show began in October, following sexual harassment allegations made against Orr by former students.

Acting senior Caleb Hennigan said he witnessed a change over time in Orr’s teaching to better work with students, according to an October article from The Daily. Hennigan also said Orr began rehearsals by encouraging students to let him know if they ever feel uncomfortable.

“Communication-wise, he’s making changes so that his intentions are better understood and better thought-out,” Hennigan said in the article.

Thompson said he doesn’t remember this specific instance, but he knows it happened because with every production following allegations and alumni coming forward, safety was the school’s first priority.

He said he remembers all productions following such instances opened with asking for students to come forward if they ever feel uncomfortable.

“Having that dialogue with (Orr) after his specific allegations and after the show opened up just felt very human, and it was very necessary, I think,” Thompson said, “to just finally be like, 'We are here to tell a story, and we should all feel comfortable telling the story together and being here together.'”

Thompson said it didn’t feel like there was tension in the room, nor did it feel uncomfortable. He did say, though, that the most uncomfortable thing has been working with the set.

The crew of “A Christmas Carol” viewed the show just before break, Schmitz said. The week before opening night is dedicated to fine-tuning the technical aspects of the show, which includes set pieces, costumes, hair and makeup, lights and sound.

“For so long, we’ve been rehearsing on a somewhat bare stage with random set pieces here and there,” said acting senior Micah Weese, who plays Scrooge. “Now that we’re throwing all of the technical elements and the costumes and set pieces onto the show, it’s kind of changing a lot of what we do. We’re trying to figure out challenges and figure out problems that we’re having and navigate all those.”

But Weese, Thompson and Schmitz all said they’re ready for an audience.

Schmitz said those who attend should expect a good time.

“There are parts of the show where I have seen it a hundred times, and I still have just as much fun every single night,” Schmitz said. “I’m on the edge of my chair and I clap along in the giant Fezziwig dance party. It’s infectious. They’re having so much fun that it is just ... the audience, if they buy into it, will be having just as good of a time.”

“A Christmas Carol” will open at 8 p.m. Nov. 30 in the Elsie C. Brackett Theatre, located at 563 Elm Ave. Other performances will be at 8 p.m. Dec. 1, 6 and 7, and at 3 p.m. Dec. 1, 2 and 8.

Sam Tonkins contributed to this report.

Editor’s note: Three attempts were made to contact former School of Drama director Tom Orr for an interview over a three-week period. Orr said he was unavailable but had dramaturg and acting senior Abigail Schmitz answer questions in his stead.

Correction: This article was corrected at 1:38 p.m. Nov. 30 to correct the proper spelling of the character Fezziwig.

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