Backstage Blog

Behind-the-Scenes of A Christmas Carol

For every production at Cygnet Theatre, we hold special Designer Forums that take our patrons behind-the-scenes with the creative team.  Listen to the director of each show talk about how they prepare for a show, and get a glimpse into the process of set design, costumes, sound, & lighting.  Check out our latest forum for A Christmas Carol.

Want to attend the next one?  Make sure you’re on our e-blast list to get invitations and reminders.

Director’s Insight: 

Creating the Characters: Costumes & Wigs

The Stage: Set Design

Creative Puppetry

The Magic of Mixing Live & Recorded Sound Effects

New Jammies

Another Holiday Memory for you today, this time from Resident Artist Melinda Gilb. You may remember Melinda from Dirty Blonde, Assassins, or The Receptionist.

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Melinda Gilb at about age two in her new Christmas jammies. Her mom is in the background.

“I have many memories of Christmas growing up. One thing that we always got was new pajamas. I think many people have that tradition in their family. Maybe it’s an American thing, not sure but I always give my child new jammies for Christmas and fruit, nuts, candy and money in the stocking. I loved ribbon candy.” – Melinda Gilb

Fire Department Santa

Our next Holiday Memory comes from Resident Artist Melissa Fernandes.  Along with appearing in 7 of the last 8 Holiday Radio Plays, Melissa has appeared in Company, Assassins, Little Shop of Horrors, A Little Night Music and The Book of Liz.

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“One of my favorite memories from my childhood was having Santa actually visit our house on Christmas Eve. I lived in a fairly small community and (as I found out when I was older) the local fire department would have volunteers dress up as Santa and visit homes to give the kids living there a present. My grandmother would secretly set out a couple of presents by the front door (again- small town, one could get away with that back then) and then Santa would knock on the door and bring them in to me. The Santa costume was always tattered and the beard was awful, but I will always remember how happy and excited I was to see Santa every Christmas eve.” – Melissa Fernandes

My First Tangerine

We asked cast members of A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play to share some of their favorite holiday memories with us.  This first one comes from our “radio host,” Jonathan Dunn-Rankin, who is appearing as Freddie Filmore in our annual Holiday Radio Play for the 7th consecutive season. Enjoy.

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“When I was six year old and my brothers were seven and nine we were staying with our paternal grandparents on Long Island while our mother and father were establishing a new life for us in Florida. It was 1936 and the Great Depression was still in full swing. On Christmas morning we three boys found at the bottom of our Christmas stocking hung on the mantel what seemed to our eyes a gigantic tangerine. It was so sweet, so succulent, so easily peeled, so enchanting. For more than 75 years I have been trying to approximate that singular experience of my first tangerine. And clementines come pretty darn close! A few days later our grandmother took us into Manhattan and put us on a train for Miami and we celebrated New Year’s Day in our new home.”
– Jonathan Dunn-Rankin

What the Dickens?

charlesdickensThis holiday season, Cygnet Theatre is excited to bring back our live radio version of A Christmas Carol. We’ve been doing a bit of research on famed British writer Charles Dickens, author of Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, A Tale of Two Cities and of course, A Christmas Carol and what we found was pretty interesting.

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Tom Stephenson as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Photo by Daren Scott.

Despite being one of the very first-ever literary superstars, most people don’t know many details of  his life.  For example, you may be aware that Dickens grew up poor, but did you know that he was mostly self taught?  After his father was jailed for having “bad debts,” Dickens was forced to leave school and start work in a blacking factory (a boot polish factory).  What about the fact that he knew shorthand?  Indeed, his first business card, which he got made at some point between 17 & 19, had his occupation listed as “Short Hand Writer.”

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The cast of A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play.
Photo by Daren Scott

Dickens also suffered, at least in childhood, from epilepsy.  Having described three of his characters as having epileptic seizures, or ‘The Falling Sickness’ (Edward Leeford in Oliver Twist, a headmaster in Our Mutual Friend, and Guster in Bleak House), modern doctors find his descriptions of the disease remarkably accurate for a period when little was known about it.  He probably had OCD as well, and reportedly had a habit of rearranging furniture whenever he stayed in a hotel room having to sleep with his head pointing north, and would inspect his children’s bedrooms every morning, leaving behind notes when he was not satisfied with their tidiness.  And those notes were more often than not addressed to “Chickenstalker,” “Skittles,” “Plorn,” or one of the other many nicknames he had for each of his 10 children.

To learn more about this intriguing author, join us on December 8th after the 7:00pm performance of A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play for a talkback with Dickensian expert Dr. Edith Frampton, professor of Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.  Hope to see you there!