The Performance Group and Notre Dame de Namur University presents the
Music of Dickens'
A Christmas Carol
a musical Christmas gift to the community
Dec 5-16, 2005
The Story of “The Gift"
This is the wonderful story of a dream that came true. The idea of producing “The Gift” originated over sixteen years ago when two Notre Dame de Namur University employees Micheal Elkins and Steve Furgas, began discussing how to establish a Christmas tradition in the Bay Area. They developed the idea of a Christmas musical theater production, but one with a difference. Instead of paying for tickets, admission would be free so everyone could afford to attend. Those who were able could bring food or toys which would be distributed to people in need at Christmas. What better theme for the project than the lesions learned by Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol? With that idea in mind, they set about trying to develop the project. They approached the Notre Dame de Namur University and were granted the use of the theater even though the production had no direct connection with the school at that time.
Despite having a theater, there was still no money for sets, costumes, royalties, and the countless other things needed to produce “The Gift”. They could not pay a staff or even assure actors that anyone would come see the show. Nonetheless, the two men were able to gather a group of highly talented people willing to give freely of their time and talents in order to contribute to the project. They named this collection of performers and artists The Performance Group. Local businesses were contacted for supplies and services needed to make the show a reality. Their generous donations were (and continue to be) instrumental in producing “The Gift”.
The first year, veteran director Tony Orazem agreed to stage the show with Lita Liebech as musical director and Tony Anderson providing choreography. There were only four performances to half-full houses. In total, a few hundred items of food and toys were collected. The second year, Tony Orazem returned as director and was joined by wife Julia Orazem as musical director. Both have continued to serve in those capacities as well as working with the producers to plan, recruit, and train performers for the annual production.
Attendance for “The Gift” has increased substantially every year. As word of the productions has spread, additional performances have been scheduled to accommodate the ever-growing number of people wanting to see the production. Last year “The Gift” was welcomed by “standing room only” audiences for almost every one of the nine performances. Of equal importance, thanks to the generosity of our audiences, over three tons of food and hundreds of toys have been collected and distributed to those in need. The food is divided between half a dozen Peninsula food banks with the toys going to the “Toys for Tots” program.
Many of the staff and cast members return year after year because of the special place the show has in their hearts. Instead of being the dream of just a few people, “The Gift” now belongs to everyone involved in making the production come to life each year and to the audiences, who return year after year to both give and receive the goodwill of the Season.
San Mateo County Times Review
"... one of the most delightful stage experiences you will ever encounter."
- Keith Kreitman of the San Mateo County Times
photos ©2003-2005 NDNU Theatre