The holiday season is the one time of the year where the same few movies, plays and songs are on repeat.. Nostalgia rings true for December because watching these familiar films and listening to similar stories brings along the annual Christmas joy, laughter and anticipation. But after seeing a story done the same way too many times, it’s bound to get a little old. That’s why Flag Shakes is bringing freshness to a classic tale with their production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Flag Shakes is set to perform “A Christmas Carol” at Coconino Center for the Arts on the weekends of Dec. 10 and 19. The play is directed by Alejandra Luna who said she wanted to bring diversity and complexity to the well-known and loved characters of the show.
“I wanted to make sure that when I directed this show that it was diverse,” Luna said. “Any time I direct, I make sure that a good amount of the actors in the show are people of color. Representation is super important and with shows like “A Christmas Carol” that are timeless and classic, I think it’s especially important. When you walk down the street you see people from all different backgrounds and why wouldn’t you want to see that on stage?”
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In Luna’s rendition, Ebenezer Scrooge battles his inner demons, learns to be less of a “scrooge” and does so while jamming out to popular Christmas music, both old and new. Along his journey, he comes across an array of interesting spirits, who are unlike any version the audience has seen before.
“It adds different perspectives and shared experiences because you’re seeing these characters played from a different perspective you’ve never seen before and it shows it in a new light and adds a freshness to the story itself,” Luna said.
When it comes to directing a highly popular production like “A Christmas Carol”, Luna said it was important to make sure her version stood out. The production focuses more on what the story stands for and less on the theatrics.
“I genuinely believe that this version is different from what people are used to. In terms of actors and in terms of the way it’s set up,” Luna said. “It focuses more on the message, the basic deep-rooted message of “A Christmas Carol”, which we all know but don’t often think about because we know the story and have heard it so many times. When people see this show, it’s going to feel like a new show and hopefully, it’ll make people laugh and it’ll make them feel something.”
While Flag Shakes Festival is best-known for its Shakespearean productions, marketing director Hannah Fontes said they often choose other productions that align with their core values. Their mission statement is to “portray classics of the Renaissance, as well as produce other actor-driven plays.” Fontes said this means they choose plays that rely heavily on dialogue and not so much on outside elements like set design, costume design and lighting.
“What we like about the renaissance is that we do original staging practices so minimal sets, minimal costumes, minimal props, minimal lighting,” Fontes said. “Basically, if we choose a show to do outside of Shakespeare, we want it to be dialogue-driven. It’s not going to be this big crazy fluffy show.”
“A Christmas Carol” — at least in the way it is directed by Luna — keeps these notions at its forefront. Much like many Shakespearean plays, the actors take on multiple roles. This production is similar in tone and in the way that the actors come together as an ensemble, Luna added.
Also being performed on Dec. 12 is “The Christmas Carol: A Queer Fantasia”, a staged reading of a play written by James Cougar Canfield, based on the classic but with an inclusive twist. This version of the tale introduces Ebenezer Scrooge and three “otherworldly specters” who teach the lesson of walking alongside other humans, no matter what they look like or who they love.
Fontes said that while the original “A Christmas Carol” isn’t a Shakespearean play, it shares similar energy and may even be better suited for families who want to watch the two productions because of the easier-to-understand language used.
“Just like every other Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival show, it’s going to be fast-paced, it’s going to be dynamic, it’s going to be colorful, it’s going to be linguistically rich, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be family-friendly,” Fontes said. “It’s going to be a great night out.”
After almost two years of waiting, Flag Shakes is excited to welcome guests back to an in-person indoors show for the first time. Summer and fall performances were held in outside venues. “A Christmas Carol” will be their first time back inside the theater with an audience since the start of the pandemic. Given this, they’re requiring patrons to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance.
With elements of surprise to be revealed during the show, like beautifully-curated masks made by Essie Windham, Flag Shakes is ready to welcome the audience back into the theater. “A Christmas Carol”, although a well-known classic, will transform into an entirely different show in front of the audience’s eyes.