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Curtains Up: Engeman Theater's 'A Christmas Carol'

Director Mark Adam Rampmeyer discusses a ghostly twist on the Dickens holiday classic.

The ghosts have center stage in John Engeman Theater at Northport's production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" running now through Jan. 6.

Featuring Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, this story of love and redemption is both a chilling ghost tale and a heartwarming holiday event for families and people of all ages. Here, Director Mark Adam Rampmeyer talks about presenting the creative retelling of a classic tale on stage.

Q: Many theaters all across the world have an annual production of A Christmas Carol, what sets yours apart?

Mark: The adaption by Michael Wilson is what makes our production unique. It stays true to the book and all those classic moments that we remember, but what this version does is makes us pay attention again. In this adaption Michael Wilson isn't afraid to make the story fun. There are some laugh-out-loud moments and I think it's not what you're expecting.

Q: Is there a concept that unifies your interpretation of A Christmas Carol? What inspired it?

Mark: There is a blurb that Dickens wrote in the beginning of the manuscript. Not "A Christmas Carol" the book, this is the manuscript that the book is based on, and he wrote this as a preface:

'I have endeavored in the Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D.-December, 1843'

The fact that he talks about it being humor and it's just his nod to the season and not to take it too seriously, that's exactly what this version of the story is. There's nothing wrong with having a little fun with one of his pieces, there's humor in Nicholas Nickelby, there's humor in Great Expectations, it's high drama and dark and mellow drama the way he writes. So I just want
to have a good time with it. So what inspired it, Dickens himself? He really did inspire this by saying, have fun, bring your family and listen to the story but remember it's just a ghost tale of Christmas.

Q: What do you hope the audience gains from seeing this production?

Mark: A good time and that sounds simple. Have a ball, come in don't be afraid to laugh and have a glass of wine or eggnog and enjoy the show. As much as this is a family show with this production you can bring your kids, bring your mom or make it a great date night. The best thing to expect is not to expect anything and you will be surprised the minute the house lights go down. If you're coming expecting it to be something you've seen before, don't, the sky is
the limit.

Q: Do you think children will understand and enjoy this show as much as adults?

Mark: Of course, I do think the children will understand because I think they are going to have a good time as well. It's silly and scary but it's not terrifying and I think it has a "Disney Haunted Mansion" feel to it. It's tons of fun, it snows on stage, what kid doesn't like to see that, we're going to have snow inside. The costumes are beautiful, lots of color and the show is filled with kids. Tiny Tim is a kid; there are 8 other members of the company that are all our youth ensemble and I think kids not only enjoy seeing performers their own age, it also inspires them. They may not know who Dickens is, if they are really young and haven't studied it yet; maybe they will see this and love it.

Q: How do you introduce the cast to the play and change the way they see these classic characters?

Mark: I started that in the audition process by telling them, it's not the traditional Christmas Carol and don't be afraid to have a good time. The performers have a chance to reinvent the characters and it's really exciting. You never know what to expect. All the classic moments are there, it's not disrespectful in any way and everything you've wanted is going to be there.

Q: What are some of your other favorite Christmas traditions?

Mark: A Christmas Carol is very near and dear to my heart. As a family we would read this together, it makes you feel like a kid again seeing it on stage. I love Christmas and all that this season represents. It is a celebration of family and togetherness. This is really is going to be a Holiday gift from our family at the John W. Engeman Theater to yours.

"A Christmas Carol--A Ghost Story of Christmas" will play Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Additional performances are scheduled for Dec. 19 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 26 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $65. More information and tickets are available at www.EngemanTheater.com.

Mark Adam Rampmeyer is the Associate Artistic Director at the John W. Engeman Theater. He has directed several Engeman Theater Youth Theater Series Productions including Seussical, Pinkalicious, Rapunzel, Alice in Wonderland, and the seasonal favorite Frosty. He also directed last season's production of 42nd Street.

His association with the show began in 2000 when he was the Production Hair and Make-Up Supervisor for the Broadway revival. Since then he has been fortunate enough to be involved with many productions including the Apollo Theatre in Stuttgart, Germany, the First National Tour, and most recently Goodspeed Opera House in 2009.

As a stylist his work has been seen on Broadway in Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast, and All Shook Up to name a few. His design work was seen in Lysistrata Jones, West Side Story and The Farnsworth Invention. Mark was the recipient of a Drama Desk award for his contributions to the design team for Horton Foote's Orphans' Home Cycle at Signature Theater. Mark has spent 35 years working in the professional theatrical community and has had the great pleasure to work with such amazing talents as Olympia Dukakis, Lynn Redgrave, Jean Stapleton, and Hank Azaria.


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