After performing twice before in the same Batavia Players show, Heather Ferris is now taking the baton, so to speak, as director of what’s become a holiday favorite for the group each December.
This year’s “A Christmas Carole” has not only made Ferris attentive to the script, but also to every other aspect of production — from auditions early on to the finishing touches of dress rehearsal.
“I definitely enjoy the directing versus being on stage. I’m a little shy. Sometimes getting on stage for me is, it can be a little overwhelming. It can be a little scary. But being able to direct, I feel like I can let my creativity come to life through the actors that are on the stage. So it's more of a creative outlet for me than actually being on stage,” she said prior to rehearsal Tuesday. “I just start thinking about how far we’ve come. My youngest cast member is 3 years old, and then I've got cast members all the way up into their 70s. And just to see them kind of blossom, and just really bring characters to life, for me, it’s just so fun to watch that. And so I get really excited for them when they're bringing it all together.”
Scrooge and his ghosts debut at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the makeshift theater at Batavia City Centre.
This isn’t a first-time directing for Ferris, who is co-directing this one with her husband Richard; however, it is her first experience off-stage guiding the action for the beloved Christmas classic.
“It’s a fun show, it’s very family-friendly,” she said. “You expect the change that Scrooge comes through, and see the spirit of Christmas come alive through him. To see how the story that was written almost 200 years ago can be so much like what we deal with today … money doesn’t always make you happy. It’s a feel-good story, and you go from bah-humbug to a time where people are happy; it makes you feel good at the end.”
Written by Charles Dickens and published in 1843, the story features Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly, penny-pinching curmudgeon whose ultimate life lessons come to him through ghosts of Jacob Marley and of Christmas past, present, and future. After learning about each phase and its impact on people and the community, Ebenezer’s moral compass and hardened heart are transformed.
Of course, before that idyllic ending takes place — just as with the storyline itself — there are the typical challenges with such shows, especially with a cast of 32 and half of which are youngsters, she said. School activities, sports practices and work schedules all must be juggled amidst a rehearsal timeline that began in October.
And even though the pandemic has rested in most everyone’s rearview mirror, there has been illness to deal with amongst the troupe, she said. But now, with a full dress rehearsal upon them for Wednesday night, it is, as they say, show time. And Batavia Players is ready to entertain, said Ferris, a retirement plan consultant.
“Tomorrow is really just making sure that our lighting is good, our sounds are good, that we have all the costuming in place and things like that,” she said. “So it's literally just the finishing touches, the little things that make the production a whole production.”
Although by day she crunches numbers and deals with accounting for clients, Ferris, a resident of Medina, can let her innovational nature flow in the after-hours of theater.
“It really allows me to have that creative outlet,” she said. “It’s a way to get away from my everyday challenges, and let that stress melt away.”
Filled with familiar music and traditional Christmas carols, the show is also augmented with pianist Kathy White and Kristin Gelia on violin.
Tickets are going fast, and folks are encouraged to get them sooner than later, said Patrick Burk, aka Ghost of Christmas Future. Tickets are $16 for adults, $14 for students and seniors, and may be purchased at showtix4u.com or possibly at the door for some dates, Burk said.
Photos of rehearsal Monday for "A Christmas Carole" by Batavia Players at Batavia City Centre. Photos by Howard Owens.