Reach Eastside presents an avant garde ‘Christmas Carol’

December 7, 2010

By Laura Geggel

Tiny Tim (Ike Balmer) falls over while his concerned family in ‘A Christmas Carol’ bend down to help him, with Miranda Cratchit (Grethe Steensgaard) kneeling on the left, Martha Cratchit (Betsy Brocco), Mrs. Cratchit (Tamara Steensgaard), Gillian Cratchit (Kenna Boyer) and Peter Cratchit (Kristoffer Steensgaard) on the right. By Laura Geggel

Actors and dancers have joined forces for Reach Eastside Performing Arts’ production of “A Christmas Carol” in Preston.

Until now, Reach Eastside Performing Arts has acted as a dance studio, except during the summer, when it hosts an art and performance summer camp for underserved children, called Reach for the Sky July.

The studio’s owner, Kathi Marin, decided to invite theater into her doors. Theatre Black Dog accepted the invitation, and “A Christmas Carol” leapt into production, using teenage dance students from the studio, as well as actors from the theater troop.

The crew transformed the dance floor into a black box theater and awarded roles to a slew of Issaquah, Snoqualmie, Fall City and Seattle actors and their children.

“It’s fun,” actor Greg Balmer, of Snoqualmie, said.

His wife, Chrisie Coffing, and 9-year-old son, Ike Balmer, are in the play with him.

“We get to work on our lines together,” Greg Balmer said. “We get to be different people than we are normally.”

The Steensgaard family agreed. The whole Snoqualmie gang, Tamara, Bjarne and their children Kristopher and Grethe, are acting together onstage, and practicing together at home.

“We have to work with our lines, because all of us are playing multiple roles,” Tamara Steensgaard said.

Issaquah’s Richard and Janet Payne also joined forces. Richard Payne, a Village Theatre veteran playing the cantankerous Ebenezer Scrooge, said his character had made him reflect this holiday season.

“It’s interesting to see the parallels in today’s world,” he said, adding he had recently met a real-life Scrooge unconnected with the play.

“It makes you really want to do the right thing,” he said. “One of the biggest lessons of this show is to be giving.”

The play, an adaptation by Romulous Linney of Charles Dickens’ novel, is almost dreamlike, Coffing said. The actors playing the ghosts of Christmas past and of Christmas yet to come dance during their scenes, and a group of tap dancers performs at the funeral of Scrooge’s business partner, Jacob Marley.

“I think it’s avant garde,” Coffing said. “It’s a really beautiful adaptation. In rehearsals, I tear up.”

“It mixes contemporary with traditional,” Richard Payne said. “It has a lot of soul.”

Usually, Theatre Black Dog performs plays involving serious drama by the likes of playwrights Harold Pinter, Sam Shepard and Samuel Beckett.

The roving group, created in Issaquah by Susan Bradford in 1996, performs on stages around the area, including Snoqualmie’s Isadora’s Café and Seattle’s Balagan Theatre and Freehold Theatre.

Richard Payne said the group is looking for a permanent location.

“It would be nice to have a home,” he said.

In these tight times, the group is also looking for sponsors. Patrons interested in sponsoring a night of “A Christmas Carol” can contact Bradford at newlightonsun@hotmail.com. A tax-deductible donation of $75 buys a full-page ad in the play’s program and on a display in the lobby.

Richard Payne thanked Issaquah’s Lowe’s Home Improvement and The Home Depot for their support.

If you go

‘A Christmas Carol’

  • 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10-11, 17-18, 22-23 and 29-30, and 2 p.m. Dec. 12
  • Suggested donation: $12 children and seniors, $15 adults
  • Reach Eastside Performing Arts, 30540 S.E. 84th St. Suite 1, Issaquah
  • www.brownpapertickets.com or 222-7050

Laura Geggel: 392-6434, ext. 241, or lgeggel@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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