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'Christmas Carol'-ing

December 14, 1998

Christmas CarolBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: RIC DUGAN / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - In the cramped backstage of the Capitol Theatre Sunday cast members elbowed past each other and crew as they prepared for a matinee performance of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

The play is now in it's 10th year in Chambersburg and third year at the 71-year-old art deco theater, according to Carl Schurr, the producing artistic director for the production.

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In a claustrophobic dressing room, six men donned 19th century costumes and applied makeup. The job was a bit more complicated for Peter Gregory Thomson, a professional actor from Minneapolis, Minn.

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Thomson swabbed a coat of gray grease paint onto his face as he prepared to play Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge's late business partner. Like several actors in the cast, he would play more than one part in the play.

Schurr, who also has a role in the play, adapted Dickens' story a decade ago with fellow actor Wil Love, who plays Scrooge. The first seven years, it played at the Central Center, a former school downtown.

"I feel, as a director, (Love) has grown marvelously into the role," Schurr said. For those who have attended the play over several years, he said Love now gives "an even fuller characterization than he did 10 years ago."

After so many years in the role, Schurr said Love "paints fewer wrinkles on every year."

Love has been doing summer theater at the Totem Pole Playhouse in Fayetteville, Pa., since 1971. Schurr has worked at the Totem Pole since 1975.

Schurr said the cast of 28 includes professionals from New York, Baltimore and Minneapolis, along with some local professionals and a group of amateurs and child actors from around Franklin County.

Joshua Wenger, 12, of Chambersburg, is busy this day.

"I play the turkey boy, a school boy and I'm in the Fezziwig fest," Wenger said. He also has a solo in the pre-show carol concert that begins half an hour before each show.

Last year he said he played similar parts. Two years ago he'd played the lead in a Chambersburg Community Theater production of another Dickens' classic, "Oliver."

He tried out for "A Christmas Carol" that year but didn't make the cut. His mother, Michelle, was backstage Sunday, the wig mistress for the show.

Joshua said he has been singing in churches for years and felt no butterflies prior to the curtain going up.

"They quite often move from one role to another as they grow," Schurr said of the veteran child actors in the production.

Public performances are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, 7:30 p.m. on Friday, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday and 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday.

There will also be performances on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings for school groups, Schurr said.

"We realize it's the first introduction to the professional theater (for) a lot of them," Schurr said.

For information about tickets call 1-717-352-2164 or visit the box office at 153 S. Main St. in Chambersburg.

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