by Brian Robin
Director Hisa Takakuwa Discusses "A Christmas Carol"
When it comes to South Coast Repertory’s A Christmas Carol, Hisa Takakuwa defines knowledge. Before taking over as director, she spent 14 years as assistant director to John-David Keller on Orange County’s annual holiday tradition. Prior to that, she performed for 14 years in a variety of roles, including Sally.
The bona-fides are there. So is Takakuwa’s extensive and celebrated work with young cast members in not only A Christmas Carol, but across many SCR plays. This dovetails with her “regular” duties directing SCR’s award-winning Theatre Conservatory, which she and her staff helped build into a vibrant teaching facility across the acting spectrum.
Takakuwa understands the storied role A Christmas Carol plays in Orange County. She sat down recently and discussed why A Christmas Carol resonates so much with audiences.
Tell us about your background with A Christmas Carol and why this is so special for you:
Hisa Takakuwa: “I have such a long history with this show and with SCR. I love the original novella, I love the story and I love (Charles) Dickens. I think it’s such an important bridge to welcoming people back into the theatre. It’s an open door to people who might not otherwise enjoy theatre. To be trusted with that responsibility of telling that story is a great gift.”
What is it like for you to connect with A Christmas Carol’s audience as a director, compared to when you were a performer?
HT: “Of all the shows I ever performed, the warmth of the audience and their response to A Christmas Carol is a special feeling. The connection to the audience is really special. It’s great as an audience member and it’s great as a cast member to share in that. I love that we’re part of their Christmas tradition. It’s a big responsibility and an honor and I know we won’t take it for granted this year.”
You come into the director’s chair with a new Scrooge: Richard Doyle. Tell us what Richard brings to this role.
HT: When we got a chance to work on the audio version last year (due to the pandemic), we had the opportunity to start a conversation on the story itself. Getting to know Richard through the conversations we had, he really views himself as a storyteller. Most actors I know do see themselves as storytellers, but he really puts the story at the center of everything he does. Every decision he makes here connects back to the story and what he wants to communicate to the audience. … Certainly his talent and his range of experience as an artist is exciting. To work with these (SCR) founding members is so moving. That’s an inadequate word here, but it’s so important. … He has wonderful presence, charisma and talent. He’ll be lovely in this role and I think we’ll have some fun.”