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By Brian Robin

Directing the Power of the Story

It’s the power of the story, not the power of her responsibility that is the primary driver keeping Hisa Takakuwa focused. There is great responsibility directing SCR’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, but—to flip the famous saying on its ear—with great responsibility comes great power.

And Takakuwa sees her role as unleashing the power of Charles Dickens’ timeless story during SCR’s 43rd annual production, running Nov. 25-Dec. 24.

“I’m struck as always, but especially this year, by the power and challenge of the story that says to people, ‘Look how human interaction and connection binds us to the world and gives the world meaning,’” she said. “And that we have a responsibility daily in our actions to make ourselves better people and embrace our responsibility to the rest of the world. I feel like we’re trying to look at how Scrooge has the opportunity to make different choices. He has the opportunity to change the path of his life and he has to put that change into action—not just accept the understanding, but actually activate those choices in the last part of the play in order to give his life meaning and find happiness. …

“We’re finding a deeper resonance in that this year.”

Takakuwa’s third year directing A Christmas Carol comes with a few new engines to power the story along. New cast members are Diana Burbano (Mrs. Fezziwig), Bo Foxworth (Mr. Fezziwig) and Alex Barlas (Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, Topper). For the first time in her 30 years with the production, she welcomes three sets of siblings in the cast, including Bea Main and Penelope Main, who both play Tiny Tim.

“Having siblings was not something we planned to do or something we do purposely,” she said. “In this case, all of them deserved to be cast because they’re all outstanding young actors. It will be fun to have a Belinda and a Peter Cratchit who are siblings (Matthew and Megan Chan). It hasn’t happened for a long time, where you have Cratchits who are actual siblings. They bring special chemistry to any family.

A Christmas Carol is such a family experience anyway, so to see the cast come in and the love and excitement people have to be in the room together, casting real families just adds to that.”

And there will be a few new stagecraft elements, including a new costume, some “new flourishes” to Scrooge’s bedroom, and “a couple new flourishes people may want to look for dealing with the ghosts.”

Takakuwa said audiences can expect to see the same heart-tugging story of redemption and transformation.

Takakuwa also deepened Scrooge’s journey by conducting special rehearsals with Scrooge and all of the Spirits—Past, Present, Yet to Come and Marley, what Takakuwa calls “the ghost arc.” They discussed how each Spirit passed the baton to the next one, how each Spirit’s language resonated and contrasted with the others and how to strengthen the story behind each Spirit in a continuous manner.

“It’s exhausting and exhilarating every year. Every year has surprises, both good and bad. But it’s lovely that we have a team that can handle and roll with it,” she said. “I use a lot of love and trust in the show and we’re always excited to get it ready for an audience.”

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About the author

South Coast Repertory

South Coast Repertory is a Tony Award-winning theatre is known for producing classics, contemporary hits and world premieres, for having the largest new-play development program in the nation and for advancing the art of theatre in service to the community. 

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