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Carols, geese and other traditions

by Lenise Willis

Photos by Vanderveen Photographers

Christmastime is finally here, and with it comes a multitude of traditions around the world. In Finland, many visit the sauna on Christmas Eve. In Norway, the birthplace of the Yule log, the season is celebrated with log fires and log-shaped cheeses and cakes. Germany is where the first Christmas tree was decorated and Mexico shares its tradition of putting out poinsettias. The Triad has its own traditions, too, including the production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

As long as I can remember, being born and raised in Greensboro, a local theater has kept up the tradition of presenting the famous Christmas tale of Scrooge and the three spirits. For the past several years, Triad Stage has carried the torch with Preston Lane’s adaptation.

“Christmas Carol, for me, is one of the greatest stories in Western literature,” said director Bryan Conger, who was handed the reigns when the show moved to Winston-Salem. “I love the story. It’s really a story of redemption and a story of hope that we can all be better. And I think that’s an important thing to remember, particularly for this time of year, I think, to take back that time to reflect. This is a time to reflect how we can be better people going forward.”

The condensed 90-minute ghostly tale uses special effects, professional actors and a beautiful set design for a twist on a heart-warming tale. Each year, I’m always impressed. Conger noted that the biggest difference in this year’s production is that there are a lot of new actors, which will give the play a fresh take since each person brings new nuances to their characters.

Of course, child actors play a large role in the production, as well, which Conger noted adds a special sense of Christmas to both the production and this holiday. “The kids always make it super exciting; getting to spend your Christmas with children is always fun because they just love Christmas so much and it’s nice seeing their excitement during the show.”

“It’s become a real part of my life here in Greensboro,” Conger said about how the production has become a part of both his life and his own Christmas tradition. “I’ve lived here eight years and this is the sixth production I’ve worked on. It’s really become a part of my holiday.”

“I hope people will make it their family tradition,” Conger added. “It really brings families together.”

WANNA go?

Triad Stage continues its production of A Christmas Carol Tuesday and Wednesday at 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm, and Thursday (Christmas Eve) at 1:00 pm. Tickets are $37-$64 depending on day and seating. Production runs at Hanesbrands Theatre, 209 N. Spruce St., Winston-Salem. For tickets and more information visit triadstage.org or call 272-0160.

TRIAD THEATRE TRADITIONS

Almost everyone who celebrates Christmas has some type of tradition, whether simply opening presents or baking a special pie. At my house, we bake a birthday cake every year and sing Happy Birthday to Jesus, because apparently when I was 4 years old I thought it made more sense. Our local theaters have some special traditions, too.

In addi tion to producing A Christmas Carol, Triad Stage also holds a holiday party as part of its annual tradition. Every year, the staff meets at the house of Rich Whittington, Triad Stage co-founder and managing director, for treats and a Secret Santa gift exchange.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to all come together and it’s actually one of the things I always look forward to,” Conger said.

Jamie Lawson, Theatre Alliance director, said their productions usually consume most of their time, but they make the most of it during the holiday. “It’s like a month-long party of snacks and cutting-up,” he said.

Joe Nierle, founder of Open Space Café Theatre, said that before moving to Carolina Theatre, they would gather an hour before the December production of Ebenezer’s Trailer Park Christmas and have homemade deserts and drinks for the donors and supporters of the show. “I loved this personal time with friends of Open Space,” Nierle said.

Twin City Stage, too, gathers for the season for a staff brunch.

“Everyone brings a dish and there may or may not be mimosas involved,” teased Kristina Ebbink, marketing director. “We also do a Secret Santa exchange. It’s really nice to have a couple of hours to just relax, chat and reconnect on a personal level.” !

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