Salomon Farm opens barn doors for ‘Christmas Carol’
Shows selling out for Summit City Theatre’s new holiday tradition
A non-traditional theater company is aiming to create a new family tradition.
On Dec. 1, Summit City Music Theatre will hold their premiere of A Christmas Carol in Salomon Farm Park’s Old Barn with half the performances already sold out for the 110-seat venue.
“Tickets are going fast,” artistic director Gavin Thomas Drew said.
Shows are slated for Dec. 1-11 with Saturday and Sunday shows already sold out, as well as Friday, Dec. 2.
Tickets can be found at summitcitymt.com.
Conforming to space
The response was predicted by Drew, and the company’s claim that this would become a holiday tradition appears to be correct.
“We are marketing this as an experience,” he said. “There’s hot chocolate and cider, and there may be some vendors. We’re really aiming to make this a new Fort Wayne tradition. Just like The Nutcracker, we feel like there’s so many cities in the world where families go to see A Christmas Carol every year. We wanted to bring that to Fort Wayne. We are committed to doing this every year at Salomon Farm.”
The venue certainly makes it appealing for the show, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been some challenges, such as pumping heat into it and getting a barn that’s used for weddings and concerts ready for a stage production.
“The first challenge was that we did not have a stage,” Drew said. “We have built up a stage on risers. For us, the farm has a perfect ambiance to do an 1800s show. The barn was established in 1871, so it is restored to its original glory, and we felt it was a perfect setting.”
Instead of working around the setting, the crew has been working with it.
“It is not your typical London streets set,” Drew said. “Instead, we really play with the wood grain and barn atmosphere.”
For performers like Emersen Conner, who plays Martha Cratchit, the Old Barn has only created opportunities.
“It’s definitely kept me on my toes, especially when it comes to there being a whole different way that you have to look at your entrances and scene changes,” she said. “You’re not able to hide as well as you can with traditional proscenium stage, where you have the wings and the backstage area. It comes with its challenges, but is very rewarding.”
And don’t expect any pyrotechnics.
“We have really pared down the props and sets, so that we allow the acting to do the storytelling,” Drew said. “It is a minimalist production of A Christmas Carol, but it still has the bells and whistles for the special effects, because beyond anything else, it is a ghost story of Christmas.”
If the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future aren’t the stars, Scrooge would be, with Caleb Curtis portraying him, while Tony Didier takes on the role of Bob Cratchit, Michael Paff plays Tim Cratchit, and Abigail Ehinger handles narrating duties.
In all, there are 48 members of the cast, which were selected from more than 75 hopefuls during October auditions.
“We have put together a great team, and we’re excited to put on this show,” Drew said.
This will be Conner’s third production with Summit City Music Theatre, having also starred in last year’s The Addams Family and this summer’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
“What I found special about this audition was how inviting it was,” Conner said, noting it required a Christmas carol, with her selecting “Silent Night.” “There wasn’t a lot of pressure. There weren’t a lot of barriers for people that have not had a lot of theater experience. We were allowed to bring something familiar, and we saw a lot of faces that we haven’t seen in the theater community.”
The company prides themselves on being a bit non-traditional, choosing inclusivity over exclusivity.
“Summit City Music Theatre always works to be very inclusive in our casting,” Drew said. “We have a visually impaired actress, an actor with Down syndrome. We just really wanted this to reflect our community.”
And it’s that kind of non-traditionalism that keeps Emersen coming back.
“I’ve really fallen in love with Summit City,” she said. “They have such a talented, hard-working team that you just gotta come back. I was really drawn in by the immersive aspect. I feel like in the past couple of years, the theater community has fallen into a kind of complacency by remaining status quo. Being a part of something that is so non-traditional and submersive was really alluring.”
Coming back for more
While it might be non-traditional, the company isn’t swaying from the Charles Dickens’ tale about the true meaning of the Christmas season.
“It is a classic adaptation of A Christmas Carol,” Drew said of the adaptation he co-wrote with Chapman Shields. “It’s a play with music. We have a phenomenal ensemble and choir. We have 48 cast members, and then, of course, a pit with a violin and a piano.”
At the conclusion of the 70-minute performance, Drew is banking on families discussing what they saw on the way home and coming back again next year to experience a truly unique experience … that might include layered clothing.
“People need to dress cozy, but we working hard to make sure it’s comfortable for everybody,” he said.