Once again Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is presenting the holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. This version takes place in Victorian Baltimore which ties the story to local history. This adaptation is written by CSC Company Member Laura Rocklyn and this is the eighth year CSC has done this version. This year’s director is Shanara Gabrielle and returning is Company Member Gregory Burgess as Ebenezer Scrooge who has performed the character in every production. (Read our review here.)
Garbrielle has cast many local professional actors and children from the area including The Studio at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. The cast also includes Greta Boeringer, J. Bradley Bowers, Ellie Cattle, Morganne Chu, Lauren Davis, Emilia Endy, Kate Forton, Kyle Hermany, Troy Haines-Hopper, Lauren Erica Jackson, Alex Jones, Jane Jones, Molly Moores, Shaquan Pearson, Benny Pope, Samuel Richie, River Robinson, Michael Salconi, Emily Zinski, Madalaina D’Angelo, Ryan James Macdonald, and Jake Stibbe.
The creative team supporting Gabrielle are Sarah Curnoles as Production Manager, Dan O’Brien as Technical Director, Mollie Singer as Set Designer, Kristina Lambdin as Costume Designer, Minjoo Kim as Lighting Designer, and Sarah O’Halloran as Sound Designer.
Shanara Gabrielle is making her CSC directorial debut. She is a theatre artist working in a wide variety of mediums with a focus on gutsy, inventive, and engaging theatre for all audiences. Driven by tales of imagination and joyful stories of justice, Shanara fosters new work and reimagines traditional texts with artists of courage and depth. Shanara has worked professionally at theaters across the country, including: Arena Stage, Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Guthrie, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Great Lakes Theatre, Northern Stage, Idaho Shakespeare, Imagination Stage, Coterie Theater, The Cell NYC, Goethe Institute, Metropolitan Playhouse, St. Louis Rep, Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival, Theatre for the New City, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Hollywood Playhouse, The Black Rep, Upstream Theater, and more. Shanara most recently spearheaded WORKING IN DC as the Artistic Producer, which performed on Black Lives Matter Plaza in collaboration with the national AFL-CIO. She has worked as an Artistic Associate at Arena Stage and Shakespeare Theatre Company and is a proud recipient of the Princess Grace Award and member of SDC, AEA, and SAG-AFTRA.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am proudly from Iowa, make a mean bowl of popcorn, and can whip up a delicious meal from an empty cabinet. As an artist, I’m inspired by stories of justice and tales of imagination, and interested in fostering new work and reimagining classics with artists of courage and depth. I’ve studied at Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts and continue to train through mentorship and a full life of rigorous work in the theatre. Though I love my work, when I’m not in the rehearsal room or in the theatre, you can find me road tripping with my family, drinking wine with ice, or spending time in the sunshine!
What directors have had the most influence on your directing style?
Each creator and craftsperson whom I collaborate with has an influence on my work—each director, each deck crew member, each props artisan…everyone. I’ve also been fortunate to have wonderful mentors in my work as a director and artistic leader who have brought me in to their process openly and championed my work—Joe Hanreddy, Ron Himes, Molly Smith, and Jackie Maxwell. They’ve taught me to be curious and thoughtful in my intellectual investigation, to be bright and to lean-in for rehearsals, to not sweat the small stuff but stay engaged when it matters. The director and leader I am is due to the amazing mentors I’ve had in my career.
In directing “A Christmas Carol” for CSC did you create your own blocking or did you use blocking from past productions?
I did not use blocking from any past productions of CSC’s “A Christmas Carol.” I find that the blocking of any production is always a collaboration of the best ideas in the room—the set designer’s vision, the cast’s acting impulses, the stage manager’s insight, and the leadership’s knowledge of their audience. In my process, I am a firm believer in pre-rehearsal work. I come in to a rehearsal process with ideas, pictures, movement patterns, moments, and research. But the ultimate “blocking” of the production is a group effort with many collaborators.
What do you want the message for “A Christmas Carol” to be for your contemporary audience?
Reimagining the classics is a particular passion of mine, and this one has virtuosic storytelling, joyfulness, and Baltimore lore infusing one of the best ghost stories ever told. But the enduring question of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” stays front and center as we ask ourselves what it means to live a life well-spent. Do we put Charity, Mercy, and Benevolence at the forefront? Do we remember that Mankind, our fellow man—neighbors, strangers, friends, and foes—are our most important business in this world? Do we realize that a well-spent life takes the whole community, and that we are all responsible for each other? With a fresh perspective and a diverse cast and creative team, I hope you will hear Dickens’s beautiful language as if for the first time, and together we’ll be reminded that joy, generosity, and love can transform the human spirit—maybe even your own.
Could you tell us what you have on the horizon, theatrically, for your career?
Up next on the directing front, I’ve got “PIPPIN,” “Sweet Bird of Youth,” and “Don’t Let The Pigeon Drive the Bus”—all at theaters out of town—three shows in three very different genres which is exciting! I’m also collaborating to bring a couple of new musicals to life, one of which will be the U.S. Premier of a UK hit from the producers of “SIX,” and another that retells an epic classic with a contemporary score and female-forward storytelling. I also look forward to continuing to work as an actor, collaborating on projects that excite me, and also to further the work with my creative collective as we produce our next big project. I’m part of a learning circle around Solidarity Economy building in the theatre and am excited to start serving on the Board of Theatre Washington in 2023!
“A Christmas Carol” runs through December 23, 2022 at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. For more information and tickets, CSC Box Office is open Tuesday – Friday from 10 am – 4 pm, by phone: 410-244-8570 or email email@example.com. Tickets are also available online. Masks are encouraged but not required. Proof of vaccination is not required.