This is the 28th time Indiana Repertory Theatre has presented “A Christmas Carol,” and its message still rings true for director Benjamin Hanna.
“The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is quite timeless,” Hanna said. “We all know someone who is struggling to connect to the community and has separated from the world. Here’s a fascinating fact about the IRT production: Almost every word that is used onstage comes directly from Charles Dickens’ novella, so when we do make changes, we always consult the original story. I think every time a new director approaches the script you see some changes because there is a new perspective guiding the production.
“This year we have some talented musicians, so we added some beautiful carols. Additionally, the cast is comprised of some favorite local actors as well as five new actors in the production, bringing new energy and light.”
This is the Indianapolis resident’s first time directing “A Christmas Carol” at IRT, which runs through Dec. 26. Last year, he assisted the director, Janet Allen, so he could spend time with the play and learn about its long history before directing it himself.
“We are fortunate to have the amazing Ryan Artzberger playing Scrooge once again, which makes this his eighth year in the role,” Hanna said. “And local favorites Jen and Rob Johansen are playing Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit. It’s fun to see this wonderful actor couple play husband and wife onstage. And we have the talented Milicent Wright as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Charles Goad coming back as Marley.”
Other returning actors are Mark Goetzinger as Portly Gentleman and Ashley Dillard as Belle.
Other performers are Grayson Molin, Carmel; Claire Kauffman, Zionsville; Dalyn Stewart, Westfield; and Katie Boice, Noblesville.
“I think the largest challenge for me was the size and scale of the production linked with the long history of how it has been done traditionally,” Hanna said. “Making sure that the story resonates and is relevant to all audience members was the goal, and I hope that people can see themselves and their communities in the story.”
Hanna hopes the play touches audiences in other ways as well.
“In a time where we are increasingly divided by socio-political issues, we can sometimes lean into our own interests and forget the stories and hardships of others,” Hanna said. “I think we all have Scrooge-like moments where we forget about how little others have in comparison to ourselves and might disconnect from people and places that aren’t familiar. ‘A Christmas Carol’ asks us to examine our own hearts in hopes of building empathy and connection to our broader community.”
Hanna said the story also can provide teaching moments.
“I think the production is a great family holiday tradition because it gives parents and guardians a way to talk to their children about sharing our treasures, helping those in need and what the spirit of the holiday season is really about,” he said. “And while it is a ghost story, the play is filled with wonder, laughter and plenty of joyful surprises.”
For more, visit irtlive.com.