• The Ghost of Christmas Past and Cider Joe: Meet Longtime "Christmas Carol" Actors Art Koustik and Richard Doyle

    Beth Fhaner
     | Dec 09, 2019
    Cast of A Christmas Carol
    The cast of A Christmas Carol with Art Koustik (fourth from the left, with gray jacket, vest and bow tie) and Richard Doyle (center, back, in blue jacket).

    The years add up for many longtime cast members in South Coast Repertory’s A Christmas Carol—a production that is celebrating its 40th anniversary to sold-out houses. Actors Art Koustik and Richard Doyle portray some beloved characters in the show; both are founding artists with SCR—meaning they joined the company in its very early years. Read on to hear learn more about their combined 75 “years” in Orange County’s favorite holiday show.

    Koustik,-Art-castNAME:​ ​Art Koustik

    Number of Years in A Christmas Carol: 39; he missed one year as he recovered from a motorcycle accident.

    Roles: Joe the Cider Man, Ensemble.

    What are your favorite memories of A Christmas Carol?
    I have too many favorite memories to pick a few! I will say that seeing the new children each year who have been cast in the show is wonderful. To watch their growth, from the beginning until the first audience, is thrilling to see. Their transformation is great. It was particularly fun to watch this transformation in two of my stepdaughters and two nieces in past years. The memories become more precious when prior students from the show come backstage, as adults, with their families.

    Art Koustik

    ​​Art Koustik as Cider Joe.

    What has the show meant to you over the years?
    Forty years ago, when [Founding Artistic Directors] David Emmes and Martin Benson announced they were planning to do a Christmas show as a gift to subscribers, Jerry Patch was given the responsibility to adapt Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. John-David Keller was assigned to direct and Hal Landon Jr. was to do the role of Scrooge. I was blessed to originate the roles of Mr. Fezziwig and Joe the Cider Man. In 1992, I had a motorcycle accident and almost died. Richard Doyle took over my roles. He had been busy doing shows on SCR’s second stage for the previous three years. By the grace of God, I survived the accident and went on to play the parts in the 1993 production. The show has been very special to me, as I can continue to be a part of the gift we at SCR give our audiences. John-David, Hal Landon, Richard Doyle and I are the remaining founding members of the original Christmas Carol. It has been a glorious run throughout the years with the incredible transforming performance of Hal Landon as the iconic Scrooge. J-D continues to bring the spirit of Christmas to each season. Richard Doyle and I remain true to the play and to our roles as storytellers of A Christmas Carol.

    Why do you think this show has resonated so much with Orange County families through the years?
    In my opinion, this story resonates with OC families because it speaks to what we all know to be most important—life is not valued by the accumulation of more things, but rather the love of family, friendships, thanksgiving and hope for the future. As SCR has been a family to me, my hope is that SCR will give to its audiences that feeling of love, goodwill and hope.

    Is there anything you would go back and tell your younger self about when you were first starting work on A Christmas Carol?
    That is difficult. I have enjoyed being a part of A Christmas Carol since the very first day. I guess I would tell myself, “This could be a long, joyous ride, so keep giving and giving and enjoy!!!!”

    Doyle,-Richard-CastNAME:​ ​Richard Doyle

    Number of Years in A Christmas Carol: 36

    Roles: Solicitor, Spirit of Christmas Past, Gentleman.

    What are your favorite memories of A Christmas Carol?
    For context, I have actually played many different roles in A Christmas Carol. Back in the day, the best-laid plans could run up against a clock and freeway traffic in a pre-cellphone world. While shooting a series episode of “M*A*S*H” in Malibu Canyon, on-set delays put me on the freeway late. [Director]John-David Keller was alerted that I might be late, so he and Hal Landon rehearsed a bit and J-D went on for me as the Solicitor in the first office scene. I arrived while the Marley’s Ghost-Scrooge scene was in progress and got into my Ghost of Christmas Past make-up as Marley was haunting Scrooge. J-D tore off the Past Ghost costume so I could get into it. I stepped into, and out of, the armoire just in time to see Hal’s astonished face. He obviously thought I was still “soldiering” on the “M*A*S*H” set! In the story, Scrooge is apprehensive about who or what this Ghost might be; on this night the character and the actor both got more than they bargained for. The show went on without a hitch. In 40 years, that sort of thing has seldom happened. But, SCR from the beginning has been an ensemble company, so if it did occur, our audiences would most likely never have known.

    Richard Doyle

    ​​Richard Doyle as the Spirit of Christmas Past.

    What has the show meant to you over the years?
    Like life in general, A Christmas Carol’s effect on me has changed over time. I had a life-altering experience as a soldier in Vietnam in 1967-68. When I returned to “The World,” as we used to call the USA, I had some adjustments to make. SCR and Orange County audiences helped me do that. I admit that initially the Christmas Carol project did not appeal to me as some of the more gritty, challenging theatre projects (on SCR’s old Second Stage—what is now the Julianne Argyros Stage). When I first joined the cast as Fred and the Ghost of Christmas Past, I confess that it was good to have a little extra change in my pocket at Christmastime, with kids and a house payment. But, the experience and my feelings changed. It became, and has remained, a way for me to acknowledge my gratitude to our OC theatre audience for supporting SCR and giving me a life in the theatre. As a dad and granddad (my daughter once auditioned for ​and appeared in this show as Martha Cratchit ), the family aspect of this effort, indeed in all of SCR productions, is in the DNA. Whatever you see at SCR, that group/ensemble’s “Got Your Back”-theme runs through it all.

    Why do you think this show has resonated so much with Orange County families through the years?
    In the Los Angeles and Orange counties of the ’60s, what was new and trendy and shiny often would get the attention. I think developing traditions in this new OC became important to SCR audiences. They wanted to see challenging theatre and provocative storytelling, but they also wanted to develop some traditional entertainment events. The Pageant of The Masters [in Laguna Beach], which I now narrate, is an example of an enduring OC performing/fine arts legacy. A Christmas Carol became a holiday tradition and its audience grew to include our regular theatregoers who came to see it as part of the mortar of our entertainment and performing arts community. A contributing factor to the growth and staying power of a vibrant community—always look forward but never forget where and what you came from.

    Is there anything you would go back and tell your younger self about when you were first starting work on A Christmas Carol?
    I would say to a young Richard Doyle, “Rick, you have spent many seasons telling these great audiences stories; now they are assembled to say ‘thank you’. Now, Rick, do like your mom taught you, say, ‘You’re welcome’ and give them a show!”

    When audiences leap to their feet, as they have tended to do for decades at the final curtain, it is a celebration of the efforts of literally dozens and dozens of artists and staff over four decades. We share with OC theatre lovers the many joys of the holiday season and a life in the theatre for which I am eternally grateful. The joyous journey continues, as does A Christmas Carol. To be a part of it, just go to the theatre. SCR would be my suggestion, but do go.

    A Christmas Carol runs Nov. 30-Dec. 24, 2019, on the Segerstrom Stage. To inquire about standby tickets, call the Box Office at (714) 708-5555. Learn more.

  • Jerry Patch: On the Beach, a Victorian Christmas and Sunshine

    SCR Staff
     | Dec 06, 2019
    Jerry Patch, Richard Doyle, Hal Landon Jr., John-David Keller and Art Koustik
    Jerry Patch, Richard Doyle, Hal Landon Jr., John-David Keller and Art Koustik

    Forty years ago, Jerry Patch’s summer had a routine: wake up early—around 4:30 a.m.—and ​work with Charles Dickens. Patch, South Coast Repertory’s then-resident dramaturg, was adapting Dickens’ A Christmas Carol for the stage at SCR.

    Patch’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol debuted on SCR’s stage in December 1980 and the universal qualities that Patch brought to the play have kept the production timeless. The story’s focus on humanity and regeneration continues to move audiences of all ages as they experience Scrooge’s transformation along with the character. We recently caught up with Patch to ask him about Orange County’s most beloved holiday tradition 40 years on.

    Did you ever imagine that four decades later we would still be here with this production and it would be so wildly popular?

    I’m not surprised, but no, I didn’t imagine it. We were just trying to find something we could do at Christmas that would appeal to the community that we were serving.

    The idea is okay, how do you put this on a stage? How do you play it to the best dramatic effect? He actually had done a pretty good job of it anyway. You don’t want to stray too far from what Dickens did if you have the resources that SCR has to have sufficient sets, be able to change them rapidly, to get a cast of size, including children, and we were able to do all that. I should say I was writing this thing in the summer of ’79 and I would get up at like 4:30 a.m. We lived close to the beach, and so the sun would be coming up, it would be July in Huntington Beach and I would be trying to think about this frozen London in December. It worked, it was okay, and you can imagine it.

    There is a large number of characters that Dickens gave you; were there challenges you found in adapting this?

    I don’t really think so. I think he gave you so much, in terms of the story that it was more deciding what to do without than what you had to bring in, so it was almost more editing and, you know, some of the speeches you could just use as Dickens wrote them. Others you had to write a scene for because it was narrative, and so you wrote dialogue for it. But still what that dialogue would be or the character of that dialogue was almost always implicit in the scene.   

    What about any surprises while you were writing it?

    The surprising thing is how powerful the thing stays, year after year, decade after decade. You don’t particularly know that, even though as I was sitting in Huntington Beach writing this thing, it would cheer me up. As you know, as Dickens was writing it, he was just weeping all over the pages, but he was a pretty emotional guy, apparently, a little more than I might be and yet it works—this idea of redemption that you can start over, that whatever you’ve failed to accomplish, to realize you can make up for is a real American quality and I think very much appeals to our audiences here in Orange County. I think the surprise you were talking about was just the fact that this thing was so potent and I’m not sure we realized when we began, how powerful this thing would be and how much it would command an audience’s attention over a period of time.

    What about workshopping and developing it, as you finished the draft, then where did it go from there in late 1979?

    We read it with some of the company actors and the resident company here had all major roles in the show and we would read it. Again, the first time we did it was different from the second time, it was different from the third time. The thing about a play like A Christmas Carol, which is a perennial, is that you get to do it again, and so you are not worried about nailing it all the first time.

    One of the things that the workshops led us to was the monologues that Hal would do in his bedroom and as he would change clothes, and as he came out of the discovery on Christmas day, a lot of that was improvised by Hal. I would be there and I would be watching it and writing stuff down. It was largely Hal going through it and finding the ways to go through that, and so he contributed a great deal to that preparation of the text, and it changes a little bit. He has room to maneuver in it and he takes it.

    We love to hear Hal say he doesn’t need to spend as much time putting the make-up on these days as when he first started.

    Yeah, it’s true. Well, the thing about Hal, and, of course, he does the somersault with the hat and we were all terrified of the years to come when he can’t do that, but he is now a septuagenarian and he’s still doing it. The reason is, first of all, Hal was always a very good athlete from college on, and he and I used to backpack through the Sierras and other stuff. He was always a very physical guy, and he has always taken very good care of himself. He’s good with diet, he’s good with taking care of himself, so that’s worked to our advantage. There aren’t a lot of guys his age who can do what he can physically.

    How do you think Dickens would react to seeing our production of A Christmas Carol?

    Oh, I’m sure he’d have notes. First of all, he was not a playwright. Playwrights tend to delight in seeing how different people do their stuff and I think novelists are not that way, by and large, they meant something in a particular way and they want to see it that way. Now, who am I to speak for Charles Dickens, but if we’re talking categorically about different kinds of writers, playwrights really do delight in seeing different versions of their stuff, and maybe Dickens would have to, but he would be the exception, rather than the rule as novelists go, if that were the case.

    A Christmas Carol runs Nov. 30-Dec. 24, 2019, on the Segerstrom Stage. To inquire about standby tickets, call the Box Office at (714) 708-5555. Learn more.

  • Meet the Cast of "A Christmas Carol"

    Tania Thompson
     | Nov 26, 2019

    A family reunion of sorts happens each year at this time—when more than a dozen actors return for A Christmas Carol. Hal Landon Jr. (Scrooge) and John-David Keller (director) have marked all 40 years of this iconic production. And this year, after four decades, both men will retire from the show.

    The years add up for other Christmas Carol veterans, as well. Continue reading to learn more about your favorite cast members and the main characters they portray.

    Larry BatesNAME:​ ​​Larry Bates

    Role(s): Jacob Marley’s Ghost, Gentleman
    Notable: His ​​second time to portray Scrooge's deceased business partner.
    A Christmas Carol in General: “I’ve been familiar with A Christmas Carol since I was little. I vividly remember the Christmas Carol with the Muppets—that was always fun to watch when I was a child. A Christmas Carol was also the first story I told as a professional actor; I got my [Actors’] Equity card in a production at the Cincinnati Playhouse. I’ve always loved the story and always love telling it at this time of year.”
    Jacob Marley is: “Scrooge's old business partner, who also happens to be the harbinger of things to come for Scrooge if he doesn't change his ways. He’s such a fun character and with the makeup and costumes that accompany the role, I am not sure what could be more fun.”
    My Favorite Holiday Tradition: “Spending time with family—relaxing, unwinding from the previous year and getting ready for the next. I'd say that's the only real tradition. Schedules change year to year, but spending as much time as possible with the people I love, getting rid of stress—AND EATING! Can't forget that!—that’s the best.”
    Favorite Memory: “It is always fun to scare people each night. Haha! Obviously, that is great, but my favorite memory is tied up in the whole experience. All of the actors are just so talented, giving, and welcoming. In general, what I love about theatre is the process as well as the relationships you develop with other people over the course of a production, and sharing this process with this group of people this time of year is fantastic. You can't beat it.”
    Challenges and Opportunities: “I’ll always have to deal with the challenges inherent in a scene. But, this group and this production, everyone helps to facilitate a great atmosphere that is so conducive to an actor's creativity. In my experience, this mix generally leads to good results.”

    Daniel BlinkoffNAME:​ ​Daniel Blinkoff

    Role: Bob Cratchit
    Notable: 17th consecutive year.
    Backstory: “I had been cast in my first SCR show (Nostalgia by Lucinda Coxon) in 2001 and we shared the backstage area with the Christmas Carol cast. I remember walking into the theatre to get ready for my show and it was like a wave of holiday cheer came rolling over me. The hallways were filled with kids and excitement and laughter. Parents were wishing their kids good luck for the day’s performance and leaving treats in the Green Room and there were snippets of stories drifting out of the dressing rooms. To put it simply: it felt magical. Sometimes, I would watch the show from backstage. So when the call came from SCR a year or two later offering me the part of Bob Cratchit, I jumped at the chance.”
    Bob Cratchit is: “One of the things I love about Bob is how grateful he is for his family. They are his world, the moon and sun to him. But the key for me, that allowed me to fully understand this overwhelming gratefulness, was Tiny Tim. Just within the story itself, as it is written, the idea that Tim might not get better, that this innocent boy might not be blessed with a full life, has always informed me of the heart that Bob carries. Another key for me, in figuring out who Bob is, comes from the kids we have in the show each year. The qualities they bring to their characters and their unique portrayals make our family complete. And my wonderful partner, Jennifer Parsons (Mrs. Cratchit), and I get a new set of kids every year! We always have a lot of fun as a family in rehearsal and performance. We feel pretty lucky to receive that gift every year.”
    How A Christmas Carol speaks to me: “The meaning of this play gets deeper every year and the relationships grow; so what started out for all of us, at some point, simply as a job, ​has now become a tradition. The relationships ​expanded out to include the ​theatregoers who come every year and the kids who came to the show when they were young and now are bringing their own kids. So it’s more than just the play; A Christmas Carol has become a tradition in all of our lives, our Christmas celebration and everyone associated with it has become our family.”
    Favorite Memory: “One year, during the final performance, Tiny Tim pulled my costume sleeve and asked me not to go on. When I asked him why, he said, ‘If you go out there it will mean it will be over soon.’”
    Most Delightful Aspect: “The joy in this show starts with John-David Keller, our director. He sets the stage for it, literally and figuratively. I have never known a person who takes more delight in the telling and sharing of stories. His laughter is contagious and his heart is always open."

    Melody ButiuNAME:​ ​​Melody Butiu

    Role: Toy Lady, Sally, Scavenger
    Notable: Her second year in A Christmas Carol.
    How A Christmas Carol speaks to me: “I just love watching Scrooge’s transformation in A Christmas Carol. It’s easy to let stress, worry and our own frustrations overtake our day-to-day lives. But watching Scrooge’s realization of the most important gifts we have, mainly the people we connect with, is incredibly touching.”
    Sally is: “Fred’s wife and she is so in love with him—he has a big, open, forgiving heart. It pains her to see him hurt by Uncle Scrooge, when he rejects Fred’s invitation to Christmas, year after year. I also play the Toy Lady, who sells toys in the town square, and a Scavenger, who seeks to make a profit after Scrooge’s future passing."
    Favorite Memory: “Making wonderful new friends through this show and watching our young actors invest so much heart in telling the story. After our final performance, there were so many tears and you could tell it was so difficult for some of our kids to say goodbye to A Christmas Carol.”
    Favorite Holiday Tradition: “Spending time with family and humoring Mike, my father-in-law, by partaking in his homemade Limoncello!”

    Sol CastilloNAME:​ ​Sol Castillo

    Role: Fred, Gentleman
    Notable: His second year in A Christmas Carol.
    Fred is: “I start and end the show as Scrooge's nephew, Fred. I like this role because I feel he represents the spirit of the story. The youthful faith of the true meaning of Christmas and the way home for Scrooge. I also get to play one of the Gentlemen in Scrooge's future. That is a fun role because I get to wear a fun mustache and winter coat that is, as I like to call it, ‘Road Kill Chic’!”
    Favorite Memory: “I truly enjoyed seeing the joy that this show brings to so many people—walking out onto that stage and feeling the tradition and history of this show. Then meeting so many people who have made this show an annual tradition. Also, when the show begins, the lights come up and the "snow" starts to fall. That is so much fun to be in."
    Challenges and Opportunities: “The greatest opportunity is being part of this wonderful tradition. To be a part of something that means so much to so many. I get to work with amazing actors, many of whom I've been fortunate to work with in other productions. As far as challenges go, the only one I can think of is trying not to accidentally breathe in the fake snow while trying to sing Wassail at the top of the show!”

    Doyle,-Richard-CastNAME:​ ​Richard Doyle

    Role(s): Solicitor, Spirit of Christmas Past, Gentleman
    Notable: His 3​​6th year; is an SCR Founding Artist
    Backstory: “​I first took the roles of The Ghost of Christmas Past (originally played by John Fredrick Jones), a solicitor and a guest at Fred’s Party. Later, I played many different roles including Fred, Mr. Fezziwig and Joe, the cider man.
    Spirit of Christmas Past is: “​The first of the spirit guides, who ​starts Scrooge on his journey of self-discovery. He awakens in Scrooge an awareness of all the goodness in his life and that those whom he encountered may have been positive influences. The Ghost foreshadows what is to come and, though there are heartfelt moments that Hal and I enjoy exploring, there also are difficult memories that Scrooge must confront—about his own complicity in the life he has had. The goals of The Spirit of the Past are summed up in his opening dialogue, as he states, ‘I have come to reawaken your Humanity. Let me but touch your heart and you shall be upheld in this and much, much more.’ This is a rewarding and challenging set of objectives for me to pursue each performance.”
    Challenges: “Coming back to the show each season and reinvesting in its goals and objectives, has the same effect on me that I hope it is having on our returning and new audiences. Oh, plus getting the bulk of my holiday shopping done before we start performances.”
    Favorite Moment: “Surely you jest—there are so many over the course from more than 30 years! But, one that does stand out for me, with a clear impression and moment of existential clarity, was the year that my daughter, Sarah, and Hal’s daughter, Caroline, both appeared in the show. OMG! Sarah now has her own child, whom I am sure will be attending A Christmas Carol in the not-too-distant future.”

    Veralyn JonesNAME:​ Veralyn Jones

    Role(s): Solicitor, Mrs. Fezziwig, Scavenger
    Notable: Her ​debut portraying these characters.
    Her SCR credits include: My Wandering Boy and Ben and the Magic Paintbrush.
    Her other credits include: Gem of the Ocean, Argonautika, Madwoman of Chaillot, Immediate Family, You Can't Take it With You, The Winter's Tale, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Nana, "S.W.A.T.," "The Unit," "Southland, "The Young and the Restless" "The District" and "City of Angels."
    About A Christmas Carol: “I have always known of the story of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but had never read it or seen a production of it. Growing up, it was not my family’s tradition to see plays. My first experience with the play came when my husband, Gregg Daniel was cast in the role of Jacob Marley. My daughter, Kennedy, and I made the trek down to South Coast Repertory to see him in the role. We were so delighted for him ​to get this opportunity to play Marley, since it’s usually not played with a person of color. As luck would have it, he went on to reprise the role for several years. This immediately became part of our family tradition​—coming down to Cost​a Mesa to see him play the penny-pinching Jacob Marley."
    New Favorite Tradition: "While it was not my experience growing up, I love the fact that ​this show has become a tradition for my family. The tables have now turned and this year my daughter and husband will be making the trek to see me in A Christmas Carol! I’m giddy with delight that the tradition still stands.

    Alex KnoxNAME:​ ​Alex Knox

    Role(s): Undertaker, Ebenezer as a Young Man
    Notable: His sixth show. First cast while an SCR Theatre Conservatory student.
    Backstory: “The first time I was in the show, I was 12 years old and played Peter Cratchit. Then in 2012, some 19 years later, I reconnected with John-David Keller when he saw me here in Eurydice. A couple years later, I was asked to join the cast as Ebenezer as a Young Man. It’s truly a dream come true to return to the same production and company where I learned to love theatre.”
    Ebenezer as a Young Man is: “In my mind, he is driven by a deep need to belong. As a kid, he’s an outcast. As he gets older, he pursues work and financial gain, believing that success will somehow shield him from the pain of not being loved. Working at Fezziwigs, he embraces Marley’s ruthless business practices. He falls in love with Belle, but his obsession with work, which he thinks will protect him, ironically drives away the person he cares about. After that, it's clear why he forgoes human relationships—they’re too painful.”
    Challenges and Opportunities: “I love finding ways to make the scenes new for myself. I try to surprise myself or put a new thought in Young Ebenezer's head before coming onstage. I’ll give Young Eb a mantra or a specific goal for a specific performance. I also love when new people join the cast.”
    Most Delightful Aspect: “Being in rehearsal is wonderful! J.D. [Keller] is engaged with every run through and inspires me​. Hal [Landon Jr.] also gives it his all with every rehearsal. He sets the bar high. I love getting to watch him and model my version of Ebenezer off of him. It’s wonderful to see family and friends who come see the show and visit with them after. Working with the kids is special, too. When I played Peter Cratchit, I looked up to the adults in the cast. Now that I’m on the other side of the equation, I hope I can be a good mentor and resource for those just starting their journeys!”
    Favorite Memory: “I remember being in the show as a child and the quiet backstage before the show would start. I remember noticing the distinct shift from the lighthearted energy backstage to focus and reverence, followed by the burst of life and playfulness when the lights came up onstage. Something about that in-between space felt so powerful and sacred. It still feels that way.”
    Message of the Play: “To me, this play is about what it means to be alive. It’s about finding ways to make life better for those around you—that is what frees us from pain and fear and lets us open our hearts.

    Koustik,-Art-castNAME:​ ​Art Koustik

    Role(s): Joe, Ensemble
    Notable: His 3​9th year. An SCR Founding Artist
    Backstory: “My history with A Christmas Carol began with the adaptation that was written by Jerry Patch for the 1980 holiday season. [Founding Artistic Directors] David Emmes and Martin Benson cast the production and I originally was Mr. Fezziwig and Joe, the cider man.
    Joe is: “Definitely a man of the street. In the days depicted in this production, nothing was easy for people on the street. There is an element of being a thief among thieves in Joe and he’s definitely a conniver. Every one of that stratum of life in Victorian England was out to get whatever they could by any means. Joe, however, did have a soft spot for the people he dealt with. As Joe says, ‘Hard on the outside, soft and warm on the inside.’ I guess that’s one reason they cast me as Joe; I looked like Joe more than anyone else!”
    Challenges and Opportunities: “This play has given me an opportunity to give back to the community; a gift, if you will, for audiences’ loyalty and recognition of our work to bring great theatre to everyone. The challenge comes in keeping it true and joyous.”
    Most Delightful Aspect: “Every year there are new people who jump aboard our beloved steamrolling train. They add so much to the production and that makes their contributions priceless. I also find delight in the consistency of Hal Landon in this awesome task as Scrooge every year and, ​in every performance, ​in John-David’s joy and commitment to the production and, in particular, with the younger members of the cast.
    Message of the Play: “The message is universal about the hope and transformation of the human spirit.”

    Landfield,-Timothy-castNAME:​ Timothy Landfield

    Role(s): Wreath Seller, Spirit of Christmas Present
    Notable: His ​20th year with the show.
    The Ghost of Christmas Present is: “​The essence of pure joy and abundance. He represents the joy and goodness and spirit of generosity that Christmas can be. His mission is to make Scrooge realize the potential for these things, to get him to change his ideas about what Christmas means, and hopefully, have Scrooge embrace this spirit of goodness and generosity and, yes, even love. Oh, and I’m part of the ensemble ​and portray a chimney sweep, a wreath seller, a basket seller and an inebriated gentleman in the street.”
    Challenges: “As I have matured in the role, the performance has become more challenging physically. I used to enter through the trunk upside down, but then SCR built a new and heavier costume for me, so I had to change my entrance. ​But, even though I am older now, the character still permits me to dance and be a little silly.”
    Opportunities: “Every year I get to embrace the Christmas spirit earlier than most people, as we begin rehearsals in early November. When I first started performing in the show, my daughters were ages 3 and 5. Christmas means so much to our family, but with young children, it means even more. When I remember Christmas morning with my children, I am immediately moved by the capacity for human beings to feel so much love and joy in their lives. It’s important to remember that this feeling can endure throughout the year.
    Most Delightful Aspect: “When we start rehearsals​, there is a sense of family…a new family that gets created every year to spread good cheer every night. The audience takes a journey with us as they watch one man transform from someone who is stingy and uncaring to someone who is generous and kind. This potential is within all of us: to be kinder human beings. What an honor it has been to spread this message on an annual basis.”
    Favorite Memories: “Some of my favorite moments in the show are when Scrooge and I are together watching the other characters in their scenes. No one knows this….but Hal Landon and I improvise quietly in character during our time together on stage. It helps us both focus and we get to express our character’s inner feelings about the real meaning of Christmas. In addition, I bring a group of my students from The American Academy of Dramatic Arts to the show each year and it has been so validating to have my students in the audience. They get to see a sillier side of their mostly serious acting teacher, Mr. Landfield!”

    Landon-Jr,-Hal-castNAME:​ ​Hal Landon Jr.

    Role: Ebenezer Scrooge
    Notable: Originated the role of Ebenezer Scrooge ​40 years ago; is an SCR Founding Artist
    Challenges and Opportunities: “The main challenge now is keeping the performance fresh after all these years. Being in A Christmas Carol has been a great lesson in the value of living in the present moment, of not being concerned with past moments and not anticipating future moments. This has helped me not only in this long-running show, but also in all of the other parts I play.”
    Most Delightful Aspect: “What delights me most is the delight that audiences get from seeing the play and the fact that adults, who saw the play when they were children, are now bringing their children.”
    Favorite Memory: “My favorite memories come from the two years that my daughter, Caroline, was in the play as the Girl About Town. And this year, my granddaughter, Presley, is cast as Tiny Tim."
    Message of the Play: “The message of this play is the same for me as it is for everyone: that there are people in need and we who are able must help them. This is particularly evident now in the light of all the recent natural disasters.”

    Rosney MaugerNAME:​ ​​​Rosney Mauger

    Role(s): Jacob Marley as a Young Man, Ghost of Christmas Yet​-to-Come.
    Notable: ​He's an alumnus of SCR's Acting Intensive Program.
    A Christmas Carol in General: “I was introduced to the story of A Christmas Carol when I was really young, watching the Muppets’ adaptation. Which is very funny to think about. I still do really love that version!”
    Jacob Marley as a Young Man is: “Ebenezer’s business partner. I get to help portray the greed that may have helped influenced Scrooge’s greedy ways.”
    My Favorite Holiday Tradition: “Waking up Christmas morning and being surrounded all around by family!”
    Favorite Memory: “The first time I appeared in A Christmas Carol in 2015. I just remember looking out and seeing so many scarves and hats. I thought that we are absolutely fortunate to perform for people who genuinely love the show and exchange such a response; we can honestly feel that even as we leave the building. I realized on that first day how lucky I was to kick off the season for so many people.”
    Challenge: “The only challenge I would have to say would be having to say goodbye to everyone on the final performance; that never really feels great. There really isn’t quite a cast like this on the planet!”

    McGuire,-William-castNAME:​ William Francis McGuire

    Role(s): Gentleman, Mr. Fezziwig
    Notable: His 1​2th year in the show.
    Backstory: “I first did A Christmas Carol nearly 20 years ago and played the Ghost of Christmas Present. I had a wonderful time with the role and it was the first show I was ever in at SCR. About 8 or 9 years ago, I was asked to play Fred ​and now I've taken on the role of Mr. Fezziwig."
    Opportunities: “Because so many performance components are already in place, I am able to explore individual moments more deeply and look to discover fresh and deeper truths. It’s a great opportunity to revisit moments that I feel can be improved and uncover new understandings in the text. Also, as new people join the show in different roles, the energy of a scene will shift and moments will change based on the different choices they make.”
    Best Memory: “Something that really stays with me is not so much a memory, but the feeling of camaraderie I experience with our cast. We all come back and do this show year after year because we love doing it and we love sharing it with our audience. I think we all feel honored to be part of something we consider pretty special.”

    Jennifer ParsonsNAME:​ ​Jennifer Parsons

    Role(s): Mrs. Cratchit, Rich Woman
    Notable: Her 1​​7th year.
    Backstory: “I am a little afraid to tell you my history with A Christmas Carol, because I was first cast in it in the 1980s as Belle. This probably tells you that I might be a little long in the tooth to play Mrs. Cratchit, but I figure they aged more quickly in Dickens’ time, right? In 2004, my good friend Devon Raymond, who had been playing Mrs. Cratchit​; moved away. I think they called me because I could fit the costume. We are very close in size.”
    About Mrs. Cratchit: “I like to think of Mrs. Cratchit as a warm, loving and fun Mom who isn’t afraid to speak her mind. She tries to make the best of things, knowing full well their situation is bleak. There isn’t much detail written into the role of Mrs. Cratchit in this play, but over the years some of the kids have helped me with her back story. Suffice it to say, I think Mrs. Cratchit’s real name is ‘Katniss’.”
    Challenges and Opportunities: “Let me start with the opportunity part. It seems every year something has ​happened in the world that is coloring the psyche of the audience in a specific way. Some nights you can feel it. We get to tell this story and give them hope that goodness and understanding will eventually win the day. The biggest challenge is to open some closed eyes. My fear is that the folks who really could make the ‘Scrooge adjustment’ in their own life will feel absolved of their sins for simply enjoying Hal and the rest of us for a couple hours. ​Another fun challenge for me is recognizing some of the kids who have graced this production in prior years! They come backstage to say, ‘Hello,’ and while I look basically the same and am pretty easy to name, they keep morphing into these terrific young adult people. Last I saw some of these grown-ups they were hoping for a Hello Kitty thing or Star Wars Legos for Christmas!”
    Best Memory: “My favorite memory is not that wholesome, but here it goes: One year in rehearsal, my Cratchit kids and I decided we were tired of walking the straight and narrow, so we pretended to be smoking cigarettes around the Cratchit table. The plan was that when we heard Bob come in, we would quickly toss our ‘cigarette butts’ into the fireplace lest we be discovered. However, when Bob came home, our Tiny Tim was found with a cigarette still in hand. Bob exclaimed, ‘Tiny Tim! Do you smoke?’” And Tiny Tim replied, Sam Spade-style, ‘Sure, I’ve been smokin’ all my life. That’s why I’m so tiny.’”
    Most Delightful Aspect: “​Comes from working with the kids that come through this production. I am grateful they share some of their life with us backstage each year​; I learn from them. I also love working with some longtime, great friends…and with my spouse, Richard Doyle!
    Message of the Play: “Don’t be a greedy, selfish old miser who punishes all who cross his path. Scrooge is a universal phenomenon and, if we are truly looking, we see it played out all around us constantly. Scrooge is lucky though, he gets a warning, a ‘karma preview’ if you will, and is moved to change his ways. I hope the show moves the audience to be introspective and spend some time considering how we treat the ‘least of these.’”

    Schindele,-Erika-CastNAME:​ ​Erika Schindele

    Role(s): Laundress, Belle, Scavenger
    Notable: Her ​ninth year with A Christmas Carol.
    Backstory: “I’m a native of Orange County and grew up seeing this beautiful show with my family. I never dreamed I would be so privileged to join the cast one day.”
    About Belle: “As with most of his characters, Dickens makes a statement just by her name: Belle, which is French for beautiful, lovely or good. Like most of the people who inhabit Scrooge’s life, characters like Belle are there to highlight specific moments, shed light on his choices and, perhaps, be a cautionary tale. Belle is love—pure and romantic. She helps Ebenezer as a Young Man look past himself, if only for a brief time, to someone else. She gives the audience a window into the potential of his heart and his humanity. She is strong and fights for both of them, even as she sees him slipping away. The two scenes with Belle are so starkly contrasting; the more human and vulnerable she makes Ebenezer feel—at the Fezziwig’s party where they fall in love—the more inhuman and cold it is to see Scrooge choose money over their love.”
    Challenges and Opportunities: “I take great pride in trying to be open every year to the newness of it all. And there are new things, including new children and young actors; I want to be receptive to them—who they are​ and what they bring to the show. Hopefully, I’ve grown as a person and an actor in the span of a year and I try to bring that to the table with me. Also, I look to Mr. Patch’s text and ​Dickens' book to find words and phrases that might bring new life to my performance. I read somewhere that Hal rereads the book every year. I love that tradition and have tried to do that as well. I can still learn things about Belle that’s what can give me more insight.”
    Most Delightful Aspect: “What brings me absolute delight from being in this production is a sense of the Christmas spirit, family and celebration. Those who know me, know how much I love Christmas and that this holiday is about traditions; so many families have made this production their family tradition and it is an honor for me to be a part of that. Also, to be able to spend the Christmas holiday in a cast and at a theatre that feels like home is special. I look forward to this every year.”
    Message of the Play: “Hope, transformation and redemption. Scrooge’s journey throughout this story is humbling. The compassion Fred has for his uncle is profound, the sacrifice and love the Cratchits share as a family is admirable and the humanity and love that Belle finds in Ebenezer as a young man is hopeful. It seems to me, now more than ever, the message of this story is much needed.”

    Sixteen Theatre Conservatory Students are Featured in the Cast
    Meet the ​young ​actors in the 40th ​anniversary ​production of A Christmas Carol in this video. Watch now.

    Learn more and purchase A Christmas Carol tickets.

  • Meet Jay Scully, Acting Coach and Conservatory Instructor

    Beth Fhaner
     | Nov 25, 2019
    Jay Scully and Students
    ​Jay Scully

    Jay Scully is an acting coach who spent three months in 2018 coaching the main cast of the feature film SuperFly for Sony Pictures, Joel Silver and Director X in Atlanta. He has cast more than 50 feature films and television shows and worked extensively on set as an acting teacher and coach. Additionally, he has coached a number of Hollywood’s top actors privately including Frieda Pinto, Moran Atias and the late Paul Walker, as well as NBC Sports Color Commentators.

    As the Theatre Conservatory Instructor of SCR’s On-Camera Audition and Performance Technique class, Scully’s students learn audition, call-back and performance technique for use in on-camera situations. In our Q&A, learn more about Scully’s background, his teaching style and what students can expect in his class on acting for the camera in the winter of 2020.

    How did you get interested in acting?

    I became interested in acting in high school, but didn’t really pursue it until college when I was cast in an on-campus production.

    What does an acting coach do?

    An acting coach like me works on-set with actors filming​ and in a studio preparing actors for auditions. My job is to prepare actors ahead of time for a pressure-filled work environment so they can thrive when time constraints are a factor. I guide actors so they can show up and perform without much direction or rehearsal—something that is crucial in today’s fast-moving business.

    Tell us a bit about acting for the camera—how is this different from being onstage?

    Acting for the camera means adding a technical aspect to your work, plain and simple. There are elements to stage acting that transfer to camera acting and others that don’t, but the language tends to be similar. The camera is all-important and an actor’s work must take that into account at all times, ​being tailored for what the frame can sustain. Acting for the camera is not about merely doing less—it is doing less, but being more.

    What is your proudest moment as an actor? As an acting coach?

    My proudest moment as an actor was performing the title role in a production of Hamlet on the Lower East Side of New York, and having a homeless man walk right onto our set at the exact moment I began the ‘What a piece of work is man” speech. Nothing could be more like the original Globe theatre than that. As an acting coach, my proudest moment was being asked to coach the five amazing kids in the film Super 8 for the entire production. Working with a legend like J.J. Abrams is an experience I will never forget.

    You also coach ​sports ​color ​commentators?

    Color ​commentators [who provide commentary for sports broadcasts, usually filling in details when sports action has paused] are like actors in that preparation and clarity of your message is freedom. I’ve had the honor to coach a couple of sports personalities, one of which is Adam Snow, a professional polo player who is in the U.S. Polo Hall of Fame. He is the NBC color commentator for all of the big polo matches including the U.S. Open.

    What do you enjoy most about teaching?

    I just love when actors become empowered through their work. There is so much about this business that will work against you, making it absolutely critical that your work empowers you. Only you can be your own best advocate, and your high standards for yourself should be the only criteria that matters. That is about developing sound, positive work habits, and maintaining a sense of curiosity and wonder in the creative process.

    How would your students describe your teaching style?

    I think most of my students describe my style as positive, encouraging, determined and methodical. My style is based on actual experience in the real business of acting in film and television, and what it requires of today’s actors. It has changed significantly in the last few years—it is more transactional, and much faster-moving, which means only actors who know how to navigate current audition and on-set situations will thrive. My style is not theoretical, it is empirical.

    What would you most like ​people to know about your On-Camera Audition and Performance Technique Class at SCR?

    That this is a serious approach to working in today’s industry. As such, it prepares actors for working with a camera in whatever way they would like to pursue. Even if an actor is looking to perform recreationally in smaller productions, my class will give them the tools they need to succeed in auditioning and working on set. Oh, and that every single actor has the technology in their pocket to launch their career.

    Learn more and enroll in classes.

  • Meet the Cast: "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day"

    Tania Thompson
     | Nov 12, 2019
    The Cast of Alexander
    THE CAST: Mitchell Gerrard Johnson, Austyn Myers, Cristina Gerla, Janna Cardia, Ricky Abilez, Robert Collins and Monika Peña.

    Seven actors portray nearly 20 different characters in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (Nov. 8-24, 2020, Theatre for Young Audiences). The cast members love singing, dancing and acting—and the magic and joy of telling stories on a stage. They bring a range of credits and experience to their performances here at SCR including working at Disneyland in Mickey’s Magical Map and on Broadway and in the national tour for Les Misérables. Read on to meet the cast.


    Ricky Abilez
    I portray Paul. He’s a sassy firecracker—full of energy and he likes to be the best at everything. He has a lot of friends, but his best friend is Philip. It used to be Alexander. But his best friend changes all the time. It will probably be Alexander again soon.
    My SCR credits include
    The Velveteen Rabbit.
    My other credits include
    Frederick at MainStreet Theatre Company.
    I love being in young audiences shows
    because they’re always a blast to work on and performing for kids is the most fulfilling experience! The best part is hearing what kids think after the show! It makes all our hard work worth it.
    The fun thing about this show
    is working with this cast and crew—they’re all super talented. We show up ready to work, but more importantly, we’re ready to have fun! We make each other laugh and we’ve become a family pretty quickly. It’s hard to have a terrible, no good, very bad day at rehearsal!
    When I was growing up, I loved the Dr. Seuss book,
    Green Eggs and Ham, mainly because I love the color green and was obsessed with the idea of green eggs. But, as I've grown older, the story to me is about embracing the unknown. Sam-I-Am teaches us that being open to things that seem foreign or different is essential to living a happy, full life and that a simple meal can be commonly shared among creatures of all shapes, colors and sizes.
    My most vivid memory from first grade
    is my friends and I playing The Wizard of Oz every day at recess! There were no limits to our imagination! I was always the scarecrow. We’d follow the yellow brick road while everyone else was on the playground or playing kickball.
    My worst day as a kid
    was the day my parents told me they were getting a divorce. I didn’t understand what they meant at the time and I thought I had done something wrong. The idea of having my mom and dad in separate houses seemed like the most awful thing that could happen. But, everything turned out okay—it had nothing to do with me or my siblings. My parents love us more than anything and they’re so much happier now! I have two wonderful step parents and they all get along. I’m blessed to be loved so much.
    “If I were in charge of the world, I would….”
    get rid of hate, solve world hunger, stop climate change and destroy cockroaches!


    Janna Cardia
    I portray Alexander’s mother. She’s very sympathetic, loving and nurturing. She’s also stressed out at times, frustrated other times and constantly multitasking as she tries to keep the household running smoothly.
    I also portray Mrs. Dickens
    , the creative arts teacher. She is deeply passionate about teaching and encouraging her students to sing, draw, and be kind and respectful to others. Even though Mrs. Dickens is supportive of her students, she sometimes becomes impatient with Alexander’s erratic behavior.
    This is my SCR
    My other credits include
    The Music Man, Cinderella and The Wizard of Oz (all national tours), Victor/Victoria, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Fiddler on the Roof, Into the Woods, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, “Crazy Ex Girlfriend” and 12 Days of Christmas.
    I love being in young audiences shows
    because the crowd is so excited and energetic! For some of these audiences, it is their first time ever seeing theatre and I feel so grateful to share the gift of theatre with them.
    The fun thing about this show
    is that it’s not a fairy tale, like most kid shows, and I like that. I like how Alexander deals with a very universal experience and, at the end of the day, there is no genie or fairy godmother to fix it. I think it is a realistic portrayal of things maybe not going perfect and yet tomorrow is another day, so you can always pick yourself up and try again!
    When I was growing up, I loved the Where’s Waldo book
    series. I loved looking at all the little pictures and scenarios. And, of course, I loved it when I could find Waldo.
    My most vivid memory from first grade
    was because I didn’t know how to spell “Girls” on my first day of first grade…and I walked into the “Boys” bathroom!
    My worst day as a kid
    was when I begged my mother to wear my white Easter dress to school and I accidentally got red marker all over it. The dress was ruined and I got in big trouble!
    If I were in charge of the world
    , I would….” have parents not be in a bad mood for no reason!


    Robert Collins
    I portray Dad, Dr. Fields and the Shoe Salesman. All three of these characters are completely different and are supposed to be representations of how kids see certain adults in their life. Dad is definitely this all-American, loving father figure whom the kids always run to when Mother tells them no. Dr. Fields is the neurotic, scary dentist whom kids don’t like going to see. Let’s be real though, even adults don’t like going to the dentist! The Shoe Salesman is the coolest guy you will ever meet. He is the flashiest, slickest and smoothest cat who ever lived. He makes all the kids feel powerful and confident with the new kicks they can show off at school.
    This is my SCR
    The fun thing about this show
    is that we get to explore how it was to be a kid again. Even though I play an adult through the whole show, it is still fun to help create a life for the kids and remembering what it used to be like being a kid.
    When I was growing up, I loved the classic Dr. Seuss books.
    The pictures were always what captivated me because I love drawing.
    My most vivid memory from first grade
    was when we got painting time for being good in class. I always would try to be on my best behavior so that I could get time painting because it’s what helped me express myself.
    My worst day as a kid was
    —OUCH!—when I was playing tag at recess, I wasn’t looking and I ran into a tether ball pole. I ended up having the biggest knot on my forehead because I hit it so hard. I still have an indentation on my forehead because of it.
    “If I were in charge of the world, I would….”
    make it so that every school had an amazing arts program so that kids could express themselves creatively.


    Cristina Gerla
    I portray Audrey, Philip Parker, a koala bear and a shoe sales clerk. Audrey aspires to be the top student in Mrs. Dickens’ first grade class. Later at recess, I play Philip and while he loves the cupcakes his mom packed in his lunch, he doesn’t share with Alexander, which is not so nice. I have a lot of fun as a friendly koala in our Australia adventure and as a sassy sales clerk at the shoe store.
    This is my SCR
    I love being in young audiences shows
    because being creative is really important for us and for our community. Theatre, especially, helps us practice working together, listening to each other and exploring both failure and success in a safe and supportive environment. So it’s a joy for me to share my passion for theatre with young audience members—some of whom are attending a performance for the first time—and, hopefully, get them excited about theatre too!
    The fun thing about this show
    is that everyone is so talented, enthusiastic and kind. We have a great time together on and offstage.
    When I was growing up, I loved the book The Little House
    by Virginia Lee Burton. I made my parents read it to me almost every night and I always carried it with me on family trips. I must also give honorable mentions to The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise Brown and Grandma and The Pirates by Phoebe Gilman.
    My most vivid memory from first grade
    is the bi-weekly science unit we had. I learned how to take care of our class vegetable garden, plant seeds in soil, clean pennies and track the progress of the chicken eggs we hatched. Every science lesson was a bit of an adventure!
    My worst day as a kid
    was on a whale-watching field trip. A seagull swooped down to the boat and stole my brown bag lunch. And, even though I didn’t eat, I still got seasick. I don’t think we ended up seeing any whales, either. Overall, it was a pretty unfortunate day.
    “If I were in charge of the world, I would….”
    make certain that we all took better care of each other and of our Earth.


    Mitchell Gerrard Johnson
    I portray Nick and Albert. Nick is Alexander’s brother and picks on him constantly with their oldest brother, Anthony. Although they tease Alexander a lot, at the end of the day, they love him. Albert is a kid who likes to have everything planned out.
    This is my SCR
    My other credits include
    Mickey’s Magical Lamp (Disneyland).
    I love being in young audiences shows
    because I love being able to tell a story that kids can relate to. It really allows us to have fun while we create the show!
    The fun thing about this show
    is working with the cast and Kari Hayter, the director. We all have so much fun together!
    When I was growing up, I loved the book
    Mitchell is Moving by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat. It was about a dinosaur that was moving and his best friend and next door neighbor was upset about it but it ends with the neighbor building a hut right next to his! I mainly liked it because my name was in the title!! I still have this book and read it every time I move.
    My most vivid memory from first grade
    is playing with my toys for hours and creating stories with them—and I was constantly told to put them away.
    My worst day as a kid
    was when I went on a trip with my family and my parents kept scolding me because I was being bad. I remember going to look at something and, when I turned around, my family was gone! I thought they forgot about me or left me on purpose. I was lost for what felt like hours, but it ended up being only 15 minutes. I was SOOO happy to see my family again. I was good the whole rest of the trip.
    “If I were in charge of the world, I would….”
    have free French fries for everyone every Friday!


    Austyn Myers
    I portray Alexander.
    This is my SCR
    My other credits include
    Les Misérables (national tour, plus the 2004 Broadway revival), Newsies, Meet Dave (opposite Eddie Murphy) and performances at The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, La Mirada Theatre and Moonlight Amphitheatre.
    I love being in young audiences shows
    because I love storytelling and getting to create theatre.


    Monika Peña
    I portray Anthony, Becky and a kangaroo! Anthony is one of Alexander’s older brothers and, although he may like to tease Alexander, I think he also cares for him a lot. My second character, Becky, is Alexander’s classmate. They’re friends at school, but she doesn’t quite care for some of his antics. And lastly, I play a happy, hopping kangaroo living the good life in Australia!
    My SCR credits include
    A Christmas Carol (2018).
    My other credits include
    Fancy Nancy (Chance Theater).
    The best thing about being in young audiences shows
    IS the audience! Seeing and hearing the kids' reactions are the best. Especially when they leave the show not just entertained, but inspired.
    The fun thing about this show
    is the music. The score has a lot of variety when it comes to style and is incredibly silly and fun!
    When I was growing up, I loved Jon Scieszka books
    due to their dark illustrations and odd, silly stories. But, my favorite book in sixth grade was a spooky one by Betty Ren Wright called The Dollhouse Murders.
    My most vivid memory from first grade
    is playing with little plastic shapes, no bigger than two quarters stacked in your palm. There were pentagons in green, squares in blue and triangles in yellow, and I liked them so much that I wanted to take them home and play with them so I put them in my pocket. My teacher saw and told my mom and that's when I learned what stealing was! Oops!
    My worst day as a kid
    was at summer camp when we went on a field trip and played team games. First, my team didn’t win the scavenger hunt and I was super bummed. Then, on the bus ride back, one of the older girls took my spot on the bus AND I got in trouble by my teacher for telling her it wasn't fair! Hmph!
    “If I were in charge of the world, I would….”
    make every school have an arts and music department.

    Learn more about Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and purchase tickets.