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‘A Christmas Carol’ Returns to Alameda

Long ago Mills College used to have a vibrant theater program, teaching acting and producing plays both edgy and familiar. Annually they would mount A Christmas Carol, casting their own students and local amateur thespians, dressing them from their vault of costumes, and having the ensemble perform on sets built in the past and stored as many do their tree decorations, then brought out and assembled into a charming replica of Dickensian London. The only thing missing was the thick liquid and floaty stars of this adorable snow globe event. One local person was fortunate to have been a part of that tradition where he played both Jacob Marley and Bob Cratchit in front of evening and matinee audiences thrilled by this yearly engine of holiday spirit.

Alameda Post - A Christmas Carol Poster

The Foodbank Players, in reviving their Carol from a year ago, have now become a part of the Bay Area amalgamated association of stage players who, along with their cousins, The Nutcrackertarians, light their hometowns with happy holidays nutmeg joy. Center Rep in Walnut Creek and ACT in San Francisco are their elder awesome brethren. Happily, Mills College is still here. Sadly, their production of A Christmas Carol is not.

This year the Players have done something a little different, swapping out the charming curmudgeonly Scrooge from last year (played by the incredible Bob Paine), for a younger, equally grumpy modern model. Gone are most of the top hats, tails and dressing gowns, replaced by the black turtleneck and slacks made famous by a certain local computer entrepreneur. Cory Kahane is this year’s surviving partner and brings a distinct, sharper humbug to the role. He’s terrific. Also new to the show are some sprinkles of contemporary language that, along with Dickens’ prose, creates a traditional and hip Carol.



Alameda Post - some of the participants in A Christmas Carol
Part of the Carol team gathered on Park Street. Photo Luis Araquistain.

A big part of this play’s charm is the broad range of actors. As with other editions—both then and now—A Christmas Carol lends itself to a mixture of troupers, young and old. Here Tiny Tim is adorably played by Aaron Bruce, a genuine kid, while Bill Brobeck portrays the spooky Future Ghost with his own authentic gray whiskers. As with last year’s show, the inclusion of singing snippets of carols greatly adds to the warmth. Jennifer Morrill’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” and Kahane’s “Auld Lang Syne” serve as heartfelt bookends sung beautifully by these talented actor/singers.

There is something important and poignant about this particular theater company performing this particular play as part of their particular theatrical mission. At one point Scrooge is visited by a pair of NGO reps seeking to raise funds for those less fortunate. Frida and Katya Schiesser make their compelling case to Ebenezer Scrooge, speaking perhaps the greatest line of truth about the holiday season—introduced, it seems, immediately after the 4th of July—saying, “We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.”

Alameda Post - photos from Carol Rehearsals
The team prepares to take the stage through December 16. Photos Luis Araquistain.

For more than two years now, the Foodbank Players have performed in order to support the work of the Alameda Food Bank, offering free theater performances and then seeking donations to help those who are food insecure. It is December, winter weather has finally arrived and warmer togs are required, so in the greater spirit of giving toys for tots and coats to combat the cold, we all can help and be happy at the same time by seeing these wonderful performances of A Christmas Carol.

Showtimes at the First Congregational Church of Alameda are December 8, 9, 15 at 16 at 7 p.m., with a 4 p.m. matinee on Sunday, December 10. For more information visit the Foodbank Players website and check them out on Instagram or on Facebook.

Gene Kahane is the founder of the Foodbank Players, a lifelong teacher, and former Poet Laureate for the City of Alameda. Reach him at [email protected]. His writing is collected at AlamedaPost.com/Gene-Kahane.

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