A Christmas Carol in Harlem may marry “classic work with uptown flair,” because the performance page shares, however it additionally serves one different key ingredient: timeliness for a timeless story.
In Classical Theatre of Harlem’s modernization of Charles Dickens’ Christmas favorite, Ebenezer Scrooge is a grasping actual property developer, a task straight commenting on Harlem’s tough relationship with gentrification and surging rents.
“Artistic Director Ty Jones contacted me in June 2018 and I started working on the text later that summer,” adapter Shawn René Graham mentioned. “As a longtime Manufacturing Dramaturg at The Classical Theatre of Harlem, I used to be hesitant to deal with the Dickens story. However after Ty and I had a sequence of conversations about the way it could possibly be related to the historical past and the individuals of Harlem—I noticed it was private.”
It’s private in some ways for Graham. “In 2015, due to the rising costs of housing in Harlem, I was forced to move out,” she shared. “I now live in the Bronx, but it is deeper than just me and my situation. The cost of living has greatly increased and wages are not keeping up. Affordable housing and home ownership have always been a thorn in the side of black people especially. Since the emancipation of my enslaved ancestors, what land you could own and where you could live has always been dictated by someone else, even written into law. That’s a centuries-old crime and a result of capitalism and racism.”
A Christmas Carol—and its many incarnations—has lengthy been a critique of greed. Right here, the related story turns into an excellent timelier efficiency—one that may maintain a mirror as much as audiences whereas nonetheless delighting them. “My hope is that this piece will be an annual love letter to the Harlem community,” director Carl Cofield mentioned, “that during the holiday season, families can spend time together, enjoying a play that reflects the community we share. Hopefully, this production will become a yearly tradition that is synonymous with the holiday season in the city.”
The efficiency tackles a particular topic whereas additionally having fun with vast attraction: not solely by way of the title’s fame, but in addition its invigorating mixture of characters and musical kinds. The three ghosts signify totally different eras: a feminine acrobat and circus artist from the 1970s, a glowing and diva-esque gender-fluid ghost for the current, and—for the longer term—a hooded, darkish, gothic spirit foreshadowing a neighborhood’s grim future ought to the housing disaster tip into calamity. All of that is balanced with a wide range of music, from rhythm and blues to hip-hop and Latino pop—a mixture of melodies that Tiffany Rea-Fisher strings collectively together with her energetic choreography.
“The story is timeless, tangible, and fantastical in equal parts and it is my job to express that through movement,” Rea-Fisher mentioned. “I am the Artistic Director of Elisa Monte Dance, a modern dance company based here in New York, so I work from a contemporary, modern perspective. But this story goes from the ’70s to current times, so you’ll see some recognizable moves from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s as part of the movement vocabulary.”
Working December four via 21 at Metropolis School’s Aaron Davis Corridor, A Christmas Carol in Harlem guarantees to infuse its message with household enjoyable and toe-tapping tunes. “It’s thrilling to put this show together and create a piece of theater that puts the Harlem community at the forefront,” Cofield mentioned.
Maybe most importantly, this play represents the integral function The Classical Theatre of Harlem performs in Manhattan, and an unlimited Christmas present could also be many viewers members’ gateway into additional understanding the inventive dynamics at residence locally. “Everything we create, we take very seriously,” Graham mentioned. “Harlem deserves theatre that is representative of its population’s past, present and future.”