CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
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Release: Nov. 21, 2001
'Golden Age of Radio' meets the 'true meaning of Christmas' in University
CITY, Iowa -- The "Golden Age of Radio" will meet the "true
meaning of Christmas" when University Theatres Mainstage presents "A
Christmas Carol: The 1932 Chicago Radio Broadcast," Dec. 6-15 in Theatre
B of the University of Iowa Theatre Building. Performances will be at 8 p.m.
Dec. 6-8 and 11-15, and at 3 p.m. Dec. 8 and 9.
New York actor/director/playwright Bill Galarmo's clever update of Dickens
is set in a cramped Windy City radio station in the snowy grips of the Great
Depression. Seven hard-up actors and a Scrooge-like station manager grapple
with a Christmas Eve broadcast of Dickens' holiday classic, requiring the
voices of 33 characters -- from Tiny Tim and the ghost of Joseph Marley to
the party at Fezziwig's and nasty old Scrooge himself -- backed up with lightning-quick
"'A Christmas Carol' is about imagining, and then making, a better
world through giving and love," says director Eric Forsythe, a faculty
member in the UI department of theatre arts. "I also think that's what
acting is all about. This adaptation marries the two worlds: We see actors
in a 1932 radio studio coming to grips with Dickens and his wonderful story.
They seek nothing short of a miracle: to change the world for the better.
"We want to say, with Dickens, that miracles can happen if we engage
the imagination, the will and an open heart."
Dickens (1812-1870) grew up poor -- his father was repeatedly cast into
debtor's prison -- and his fiction is filled with social critique and motivated
by the passion of a social reformer. In "A Christmas Carol" he personified
his era's growing ideology of ruthless greed in the loathsome but still redeemable
character of Ebenezer Scrooge, a cruel, selfish penny-pincher who hates Christmas
and charity with equal scorn.
The hardship of the workhouses and slums of Dickens' London was echoed in
the traumas and deprivations of The Great Depression nearly a century after
"A Christmas Carol" was written. Hundreds of thousands of workers
were laid off, and wages were slashed for those who retained employment. "Depression"
described not only the economy but also the mood of the public, as basic American
values and assumptions were drawn into doubt.
In Chicago, unemployment topped 40 percent, and the news told daily stories
of suicides, evictions and food drives. Like the downtrodden and destitute
of Dickens' time, the common people of Chicago were longing for inspiration
-- or just escape.
Americans were hungry for miracles, and the new entertainment technology
of radio seemed like an almost miraculous blessing in troubled times. The
possibility of escape into the imaginary world of radio dramas and series
kept radio sales up at a time when everyone was pinching pennies -- not out
of greed, but out of necessity.
That is the setting of "A Christmas Carol: The 1932 Chicago Radio Broadcast."
Dickens' story of miraculous redemption is not only a message of hope, but
also the encapsulation of all the values and images we associate with Christmas.
And, in fact, many of these traditional Christmas ideas and images come
to us directly through Dickens. The production's dramaturg, graduate student
Janet Bentley, wrote, "London's Sunday Telegraph of 1988 asserted that
Charles Dickens was 'the man who invented Christmas.' Many Yuletide traditions
were lost during the Industrial Revolution and the subsequent migration to
"Inspired by memories from Dickens' youth, 'A Christmas Carol' revived
Christmas in England and gave us our modern image of the holiday. One of Dickens'
biographers makes the observation that during the first eight years of the
author's life, it snowed every December. This odd meteorological phenomenon
that happened in Southern England resulted in our modern image of a white
"In addition to the long-cherished images of snow-covered trees and
families huddled in warm houses eating goose and pie and playing games, Charles
Dickens portrayed a world of infinite possibility and benevolence. . . . the
message of 'A Christmas Carol' sought to promote the idea that no way of life
is sound or rewarding that excludes the need of loving and of being loved."
Other artistic contributors to the production of "A Christmas Carol:
The 1932 Chicago Radio Broadcast" include co-director William Barbour,
scene and costume designer Margaret Wenk, composer Michael Cash, lighting
designer Ethan Bade and sound designer Kyle Hulsebus.
Tickets are $16 ($8 for UI students, senior citizens and youth) from the
Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining tickets for each performance
will be available one hour before curtain time at the Theatre Building box
Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays
and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial (319) 335-1160.
Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. Fax to (319) 353-2284. People with
special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial (319)
335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who
use that technology.
Tickets may be ordered on-line 24 hours a day, seven days a week through
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may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff
may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may
be requested by e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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The department of theatre arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts
in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.