by Lorie Lewis Ham
Watching A Christmas Carol is a part of our Christmas tradition, whether we are lucky enough to see it on stage, or we watch Patrick Stewart’s version on DVD. It has been one of my favorite stories ever since I played the Ghost of Christmas Past at my elementary school’s annual production when I was in sixth grade. One of the best performances of this story I have ever seen was Chris Mangels’ one-man show and I am thrilled to share that he will be presenting a concert reading of that show on December 6 at 2nd Space in Fresno.
This performance is also a benefit for Bring Samantha Home. I chatted with Haley White about the group putting on this show, The Motley Fools, and about what Bring Samantha Home is all about. I also got the chance to chat with Chris Mangels about his show!
Interview with Haley White:
KRL: Please tell us about the charity that you are fundraising for and how you got involved?
Haley: The Motley Fools originally formed to create a month’s worth of Shakespearean-themed events for the Shakespeare400 celebration that took place world-wide this past April. We had so much fun working together, we decided we would continue working together on projects anytime anyone had a good idea for something.
Shortly after our events in April were over, Leslie and Jeff Martin produced a cabaret & auction event to raise money for their efforts to adopt a teenage girl. A few members of The Fools, including myself, were in attendance at that particular event (many of us in the group know and love Leslie Martin personally) and someone asked me, “Should this be the next thing we do?” I put it to several other members of the group, and we all agreed it was a great idea. We decided to name the project Bring Samantha Home and have been doing various events—readings, a play, a yard sale, a game show, and a karaoke night—to help assist The Martin family ever since. For more information on the project, folks can visit www.bringsamanthahome.com.
KRL: What are the details for the December 6 event?
Haley: The event is Tuesday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m. at The 2nd Space Theatre in Fresno. Tickets are $12, general admission, and can be purchased online. Reservations are strongly recommended, as this is a very popular show.
KRL: What are some of the other upcoming events? Where can people go to watch for more events?
Haley: We definitely have more in store, even after this project has ended and Samantha is finally safe and sound in Fresno with her family. The details for our next project have yet to be solidified, but we’re definitely planning on bringing diverse, socially and politically charged works to town next year. After the success of our We The People event, which was performed outside of the Bring Samantha Home project, we’re planning something for inauguration night as well. Details will be made available on our Motley Fools Fresno website and on Facebook with The Motley Fools – Fresno as soon as they are available.
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Haley: First, I just want to thank Dan Pessano and the Good Company Players for hosting us for the second time. It’s incredibly generous on their part.
Secondly, I want to note how incredibly special it has been to see so many members of our community band together to help this family. Not just the members of The Motley Fools, who have been working tirelessly to make sure Samantha comes home. The Old Clovis Hotel Bistro, the California Arts Academy, Stageworks Fresno, the Theatre Arts Department at Fresno State, the Theatre Department at COS, Blimprov, and local artist Stephanie Bradshaw are just some of the groups and people who have helped make this project possible. Part of what is awesome about The Fools is we’re not just a typical theater company; we’re individual artists who are members of many local theater companies. We don’t have one person or small board who decides and plans our events; we try as often as possible to vote democratically. We don’t have one space in town we work from; we bounce all over and therefore have the opportunity to work with so many generous business owners and non-profits. And I’ve been able to work with so many artists in town that previously, I only admired from afar. It’s really something special.
Chris Mangels & A Christmas Carol:
KRL: When did you first get the idea to do a one-man show of A Christmas Carol? How long did it take to put it together? What was the process?
Chris Mangels: In 2003, I directed a large-scale version of A Christmas Carol of 30+ actors and huge special effects for The Enchanted Playhouse Theatre Company in Visalia. It was very successful. In 2007, they announced the production again as their holiday show but then lost their director.
They came to me in September and asked if I’d be willing to direct it again, but I had just been hired as a full-time professor at COS. I was directing my first show there, which was scheduled to close only two weeks before Christmas Carol would open, AND I was getting married in late October. I joked with my dear friend and collaborator, Karen Kirkpatrick, who was, at the time, on the EPTC Board, that the only way I could pull it off in so short an amount of time would be if I didn’t have to work with anyone but myself. She laughed, I laughed, and then, knowing that Patrick Stewart had a popular run with his own one-man adaptation in the late 90s, I said, “What if I DID do it as a one-man show?”
Over a few beers and some creative scheduling, we agreed that Karen would be my co-director and thus tell me if my ideas were working. We’d bring in a trusted friend, Sean McMichael, as tech director, and I would try to tackle the adaptation, design the show, and then perform it. I wound up crafting the first draft of the script in one night; Karen and I went to work on staging it, and three weeks later we opened the show. It was the most challenging and exhilarating artistic experiment I had ever done, and I cherish it to this day.
KRL: Why A Christmas Carol?
Chris: It’s one of the greatest and most timeless holiday stories of all time. No matter what’s going on in our world, it seems like Scrooge’s circumstances always resonate and his redemption is one of the greatest triumphs of spirit in English literature. I never get tired of new adaptations and iterations.
KRL: Why a one-man show?
Chris: I think that A Christmas Carol is ultimately a VERY intimate story about one man’s solitary journey through his own sad life. The solitary nature of a one-man show, I think, really accentuates that.
KRL: Have you done any other one man shows?
Chris: No. This may be the only one I have in me. It is incredibly rewarding, but it’s also exhausting.
KRL: How long does it take each night that you perform it to get ready-make up, etc.?
Chris: When I do the full performance, I spend about an hour putting on make-up and getting myself centered to tackle all 26 characters in such a relentless fashion.
KRL: When and where have you performed it so far?
Chris: I have performed it at The Enchanted Playhouse as part of their 2007 season and then again in 2010. I have been anxious to bring it to Fresno and have even discussed it with some of the local companies, but I think it seems like a gamble to many of the higher-ups. Do people want another Christmas Carol, and do they want it from me? The Motley Fools are betting on me, so I guess we’ll see on December 6.
KRL: Are you doing it this time as a one man show or a reading for this event?
Chris: It is a concert reading of my one-man-show. I will be in costume and make-up, but I’ll be performing on the stage at the Second Space Theatre, where they are currently producing the fantastic It’s a Wonderful Live: Live Radio Play. Since I will not have my set and the show comes hot on the heels of COS’s White Christmas, 11/25-12/4, I will have my script in front of me on a stand, but there will still be much more of a ‘performance’ than people usually expect from a normal reading. The show is in my blood, and it wants to come out and play!
KRL: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Chris: All proceeds go to benefit the Bring Samantha Home project. I couldn’t be prouder to be performing the show to help the wonderful Martin family!
Once again, the Christmas Carol concert reading is Tuesday, December 6 at 7:30 p.m. at The 2nd Space Theatre, 928 E Olive Ave. in Fresno. Tickets are $12, general admission, and can be purchased online.
I know this will be an amazing shows, so don’t miss your chance to enjoy A Christmas Carol this season, and help out a wonderful family all at the same time!
You can find more theatre articles, and other entertainment articles, in our Arts & Entertainment section.