Arts

Classic Christmas Play Delights Audience

These actors you will see on your laptop screen, Willie, Lauren, Maria, and Tony as you enjoy an entertaining and unexpected performance.. Photo courtesy of Immediate Theatre Project.

Asheville – The four actors—Lauren Kriel, Tony Larkin, Maria Buchanan, and Willie Repoley— with Immediate Theatre Project at North Carolina Stage Company are incredibly successful in re-working the Christmas classic, It’s A Wonderful Life into a meaningful and relevant presentation for today.  You have an opportunity to sign up to “go to the theater” until December 20th by buying a ticket for $25.00.  Word has gotten out and apparently people are tuning in from far away to see this one-of-a-kind play— from an island off the coast of Maine and another from the coast of Oregon. Zoom can be far reaching.  “The show goes on” with this clever presentation of a Christmas classic suitable for the whole family.

Yes, it takes a few minutes to get into the scenes, a few minutes to follow what exactly is happening on the screen,  but then all of a sudden you are connected.  The heart-warming story of George Bailey comes to life and becomes magical and touching.  Many undoubtedly remember the well known Christmas movie with Jimmy Stewart from the 1940’s.  George Bailey gives up his many dreams over years to help others.  His guardian angel, Clarence, is asked to intervene when Bailey gets depressed one Christmas Eve and contemplates the unthinkable, suicide.  But the presentation by the Immediate Theatre for audiences on Zoom is incredibly clever and inventive.  The content of this story speaks loudly to what many in the world are going through right now and can help get them back on track.  It is inspiring.

If you purchase a ticket for the performance, your Zoom screen is split with the 4 actors performing for you there—a “live” performance, not pre-recorded with a live audience in evidence.  By demonstrating the use of sound props, not costumes or staging, to illustrate the drama, the story of Bailey’s life unfolds. The family of characters in the play are recognized as the professional actors adapt and change their facial expressions and voices to fit the character they must portray—sweet and endearing for Mary, to gruff and grumpy for Mr. Potter. The props are shown for the sound effects. A glass is broken for the sound of a broken window, water is whirled in a bath tub for river noises, musical keyboards and train whistles, these everyday household items bring the story to life.   

NC Stage Company and Immediate Theatre Project 

ITP has always had a special relationship with North Carolina Stage Company, Asheville’s only professional Equity Theatre. In 2008, NC Stage asked ITP to be their official Partner Company In Residence. This meant that one MainStage production at NC Stage each year is produced by ITP. NC Stage provides the infrastructure, and ITP provides the creative content.

ITP has created a new revision of the well known story and takes advantage of the personalities of the four actors in the cast. They are highly successful in drawing the audience into the dramatic life of George Bailey. Immediate Theatre Project states that they “strive to awaken in artists and audiences alike the possibility of sharing a simple and profound experience in real time.”  The company has presented their own original radio version of It’s A Wonderful Life each year since 2009. “We knew that as a company with an ‘audio only’ arm, we were well positioned to come up with some innovative, Zoom-friendly programming,” says company co-founder Willie Repoley, who is one of the four actors on stage as well as  the Artistic Director. The production is directed by Hans Meyer. The stage manager is Jared Stover.  

The story itself seems more relevant than ever in 2020. “No matter your politics, I think we can all agree that this has been a rough year,” Repoley said. “I think a story about a young man who becomes frustrated by circumstances largely outside of his control, who tries and tries to do the right thing but keeps falling short of his dreams, who is rescued from a deep despair only by prayer and the generosity of his community is exactly what we need right now. It’s a very hopeful story. It asks us to believe in our neighbors and in what we can accomplish together that we can’t do alone.”  George Bailey is supported by his friends who say, “if George is in trouble, you can count on me.” It is a heart-warming Christmas message for 2020 in a one-of-a-kind presentation.

Try not to miss this wonderful Zoom presentation; make the effort to get your ticket and “return to the theater”  at a specific time on a specific day on Zoom.  It’s a Wonderful Life runs Thursdays-Saturday beginning at 7:30 p.m with a matinee at 2:00 pm on Sundays.  Tickets are $25 and are sold per household. They can be purchased online at ncstage.org or by calling 828-239-0263.