A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play Show & Syrian Refuge Fundraiser!

Dec 4, 2019 | 2019 Articles, Helping Hands, Lorie Lewis Ham, Theatre

by Lorie Lewis Ham

A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play is being presented in Clovis this month by a new theatre company in the Valley, Action Community Theater. We took a moment to chat with the show’s director Maxwell Debbas about the company and the show. This will also be a fundraiser to help with the Syrian Refugee crisis.

KRL: What is Action Community Theater, where did the idea come from and what was involved in making it happen?

Maxwell: Action Community Theater is a new theater company in the Central Valley with the goal of providing the community with an additional avenue to participate in and attend family friendly theater. We also want to bring live theater to as many people as possible by providing free entry to our shows. We are working hard to make theater accessible for all while raising awareness and money for relief efforts across the globe. We are performing locally, impacting globally.

Action Community Church has a large number of actors and artists, and after years of producing shows a group of us decided to further utilize the talents around us to put on a larger scale production while making an impact within the community and beyond. We wanted to make sure that when we did this, we produced high end productions, shows that would bring people back and encourage more participation from the Central Valley community.

KRL: Do you have an official position/title with the theater company?

Maxwell: I serve on the creative team with other members of the company such as Jason Fuller, Launa Grunau and Robert Sanchez. I am directing this year’s show, A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play, as well as serving as one of the actors within the play.

KRL: I understand that one of the goals of ACT is to raise awareness and money for the humanitarian crisis in Greece, how did this come about and why does ACT feel this is important?

Maxwell: Action Community Church is part of a network of churches (The Socal Network) which yearly pulls resources to create a larger impact on global needs. In the past The Socal Network has fought against human trafficking, built wells in Liberia and are now working together to help the Syrian Refugee crisis, focusing on Greece. The need is overwhelmingly great. Basic necessities like clean water, food, shelter, as well as health services are immediately necessary. We knew we were called to help and that it was our time to ACT on their behalf. After some thought and prayer, we felt like we could use one of our churches greatest gifts to raise money for this enormous need. That’s what launched Action Community Theater. Every penny given will go towards this need. The church is paying for the costs to put on the production.

KRL: Why did you choose for your first show to be A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play?

Maxwell: I have always loved radio dramas. As a child I would sit in my room and listen to old time radio dramas from the 30s and 40s, creating sound effects and mimicking voices. That passion never left, and I have since produced a number of podcasts, worked on multiple live radio plays, including The Flower Tome Companion series for Rogue Festival, It’s A Wonderful Life with Good Company Players and Dracular with the Fresno State MCJ Department. Additionally, Action Community Church had previously produced a run of It’s A Wonderful Life: The Live Radio Play a few years ago. All of this came together to make A Christmas Carol: A Live Radio Play the right choice for the inaugural play for Action Community Theater.

We specifically love the call to embody the spirit of Christmas in this play and believe that we all (actors and audience alike) learn alongside of Ebenezer, to be people who meet needs with love.

KRL: Any special challenges to directing this show?

Maxwell: Plenty! Since our goal is to raise money for Refugee Response Project and we are not charging admission, we produced this show on a minimal budget. That comes with various challenges, however the members of our cast and crew all came together in amazing ways we have created beautiful show!

KRL: What have you enjoyed most?

Maxwell: I have enjoyed working with this incredible cast! With only 6 of us performing over 40 characters as well as performing all the Foley sound effects, there was a chance this could get a bit dicey! However, each cast member has brought immense talent to the show. Working together on character voices, perfecting the live sound effects, and creating comedic bits within the show has been such a pleasure.

KRL: Who is in the cast? And names we might recognize?

Maxwell: Our cast is made up of a few seasoned actors as well as a few talented individuals who are only recently discovering their love for being on stage! Brianne Vogt Debbas, Sara Price and I have all directed and performed at various companies across town, including: Roger Rocka’s, 2nd Space, CMT, and Selma Arts Center among others. Keith Hartman is one of the finest photographers in the valley as well as singer and has performed in It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, among others. Jason Fuller, in addition to being the lead pastor at Action Community Church, he performs in multiple shows a year at ACC and has served as our set designer.

Our final cast member is Deon Vogt, and this is his theatrical debut! While he has not spent time on stage, he has spent countless nights at the theater watching his daughter, Brianne (see above) perform. Additionally, we have Ellyse Walczak on piano, providing live music throughout the show, and our stage manager Moriah Mehlman who is providing technical help and keeping us on track.

KRL: Why did ACT choose for the show to be free? Will all of your shows be free?

Maxwell: Jason had a vision before the church was started for a church to be a place that told great stories through theater. All people are elevated when they take the stage and when they participate as an audience. Theater is therapeutic and enriches all participants. This means that theater has to be accessible for all people, not just those who can afford it. By making the shows free you give access to everyone. So, yes, our hope and goal is that our shows will always be free, while collecting a donation for some local or global need.

KRL: What are ACT’s future plans and goals?

Maxwell: We have big dreams! We would love to have our own working theater one day that is shared with the church. We would love to put on multiple shows a year. We would love to have summer workshops for children and teens to get them on the stage for the first time, and we would love to raise millions of dollars for needs all around the world!

KRL: When and where are the performances, and I understand it is suggested that people reserve seats, how do they do that?

Maxwell: Our show is being performed at 101 Sunnyside Ave. in Clovis, CA. We have transformed our space into a 1940s radio studio in which the audience will be seated around the cast as we perform. Space is limited, so while we will be allowing people to arrive without tickets, those seats are first come first serve. We encourage everyone to reserve tickets at www.actioncommunitytheater.com.

KRL: Where can ACT be found online? (social media, website)

Maxwell: You can find us on Facebook and at www.actioncommunitytheater.com where we will be launching our full site soon.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Maxwell: I am so very proud of this show and the work ACT and ACC are doing for the crisis in Syria. We are doing our best to put Christmas cheer and love into action, and I encourage everyone to bring a friend, tell your co-workers and come have an amazing night at the theater!

If you love local theatre, be sure to check out Mysteryrat’s Maze Podcast, which features mysteries read by local actors. You can find the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Play, and also on Podbean. A Christmas one just went up!

Check out more theatre reviews & other local entertainment articles in our Arts & Entertainment section.

Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and a contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie’s mystery writing at Mysteryrat’s Closet.


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