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December 2013

A Christmas Carol: The Gift Celebrates 28th Year Performance at NDNU

For the past 28 years, Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) and The Performing Arts Company have celebrated the spirit of giving learned by Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol: The Gift," the longest running musical adaptation of Charles Dickens "A Christmas Carol" in the Bay Area.

"I'm not surprised," said Michael Elkins, Professor and Chair, Department of Theatre and Dance. "One of the reasons we knew we could probably do this so long is because the Bay Area is attuned with talented theatre artists, dancers, singers, actors, technicians who all share the same spirit and passion for theatre."

The two-week holiday institution performance, which stared professional and amateur actors, was a musical featuring music by Alan Menken (famous for his Disney scores for "The Little Mermaid" and "Beauty and the Beast), lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, and book by Mike Ockrent and Ahrens. The concept started in 1985 when professor Elkins, who also plays the main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, had this idea about presenting a stage adaptation of the 1991 film, "Scrooge."

"I figured since we have a free theatre that is available in December that we would pull together some costumes and add a quick set from all spare parts, invite people we know to audition, and put on some free performances," said Elkins. "What started out with a company and technical crew of 35 has now nearly trippled in size."

Since 1985, nearly 100,000 people have attended the holiday performance. One of the biggest challenges every year is making sure the show never gets stale.

"Every year we look at different ways we can do the technical effects, whether its adding a new dry ice machine, lighting, or sound. We also try to refurbish costumes from years prior. We try to change as much as possible, on what little budget we have, to keep it interesting year after year," added Elkins.

December 6 was the opening Gala Benefit Performance which brought out hundreds of people from the NDNU community. Every year the Gala performance is a benefit to offset production cost. The opening night performance included caroling and a post-show Victorian gala and banquet where guests had a chance to meet the cast and crew.

Christmas Carol alums

Celebrating opening night of A Christmas Carol: Ann Lawler '01, Theatre and Dance Department Chair, Mike Elkins, Niki (Rodrigues) Nielsen '11, Liz Schooler '07, '11 and John Babin '08

Christmas Carol Photo Gallery

Nicole (Rogriguez) Nielsen '11, has attended the performance for many years even after her days of being part of the cast. She says she cannot imagine a holiday season without having the NDNU production of the Christmas Carol in it.

"There is something special and moving about the closing song in the show -- it allows me to reflect on the journey of the entire production," said Nielsen. "Looking out and seeing the sold out audience with smiles on their faces, seeing my fellow cast members and alums that have now become family, it truly is the journey of the production that has changed my outlook of the holiday season."

"There are people who have been coming year after year," added alum and attendee, Rachel Williams '02. "You get to see them and their children and then years later you see their grandchildren and that's really wonderful."

The show might be over now, but the 'gift' keeps on giving to those in need in the community all the way through the holidays. Throughout the performances, attendees were encouraged to bring nonperishable food and toys that will be distributed to charitable organizations across the Bay Area, such as Second Harvest Food Bank and neighborhoods like the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Each year, the event collects an average of 1,500 toys and as much as three tons of food.

"Many people see the University's mission and commitment to the community in this action," said Elkins. "The mission of the project is to provide professional caliber musical theatre performances to the community and to provide opportunities for contributions of new toys and non-perishable food items for the less fortunate of our community."

The show ran from December 6 – 15. christmascarolthegift.org.

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The Notre Dame de Namur University Alumni Newsletter is published by the Alumni Relations Office.
Elizabeth Valente, Director of Alumni Relations, Editor.

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