Children’s Theatre of Charlotte (CTC) offers two servings of holiday fare in 2013 — “Miracle on 34th Street,” which continues a run through Dec. 22, and “A Commedia Christmas Carol,” which runs Dec. 14 – 29.
Christmas is just not Christmas without at least one viewing of these holiday classics.
The “Miracle on 34th Street” production features “color-blind” casting, which is common at CTC. Ron McClelland, and African American actor, plays the lead role of attorney Fred Gayley.
Galey proves with a preponderance of evidence that Santa Claus lives and works in New York. In the process, he also wins the hand of his lady love.
In an interview with Qcitymetr.com, McClelland said color-blind casting allows Children’s Theatre to promote diversity and “reach out to all people.”
“Attendance has been great, full houses, enthusiastic response,” he said. “The show is for (ages) 6 and up, but this is a family show in the truest sense. The kids enjoy the festiveness, but for adults, it still deals with real issues — loyalty, friendship, fidelity. Adults have been commenting on the fact that they could get drawn in so deeply.”
This is Ron McClelland’s first main stage debut in a Children’s Theatre production, but not his first experience working with them. He appeared previously in the CTC production of “LIARS,” which toured 8th grade classes as a cautionary tale about substance abuse.
McClelland recalled: “I had been doing some local work, the Shakespeare Festival, was Mr. Tibbs in the Theatre Charlotte production of ‘In the Heat of the Night.’ A couple recently stopped me to say, ‘Here’s Mr. Tibbs.’ That [role] was a year ago.” Children’s Theatre approached him after one of his Mr. Tibbs performances, and a new chapter in McClelland’s career was born.
McClelland grew up in Hartford, Conn., which he said offered “very few prospects.” He got a start in theater because of a man named Clay Stevenson, who founded a youth theater.
“Young people were paid salaries for producing professional-quality musicals,” he said. “It is not still going on, but at the time it was a very big deal… A lot of those students later appeared in ‘ER’ and on Broadway, all because of one man who had a vision.”
McClelland earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting from Carnegie Mellon University and carried on that mentoring tradition as an instructor at the Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts and at Carnegie Mellon University’s Pre-College Theatre Program. He also worked as a guest artist in residence at the University of Pittsburgh. Ron’s former students have been accepted into programs at universities across the country. Some are working professionally in television and on Broadway.
To young people who might be inspired to pursue acting, McClelland offers this: “Get reputable training. Children’s Theatre of Charlotte offers some opportunities. Surround yourselves with people who are doing what you want to do. It is not an easy life, so the better your training and support system, the better your chances.”
McClelland’s next appearance will be in “Sizwe Banzi is Dead,” South African author Athol Fugard’s two-character play, opening February 2014 and produced by the Carolina Actors Studio Theatre (CAST).
In “A Commedia Christmas Carol,” Jacob Marley, already dead for years, visits his former business partner, Ebenezer Scrooge, on Christmas Eve, starting a series of ghostly visitations to redeem Scrooge’s miserly soul. Told in the Commedia dell’arte style by CTC’s Tarradiddle Players, even 5-year-olds will relate to the costumes and physical comedy. Older audience members will appreciate a new interpretation using a centuries-old performance style.
Commedia dell’arte, also known as Italian comedy, dates back to the Sixteenth Century, when professional troupes traveled from town to town to perform on makeshift stages. Children’s Theatre is the first theatre company to perform Lane Riosley’s version of “A Commedia Christmas Carol.
“A Commedia Christmas Carol” is recommended for ages 5 and up.
For more information or to order tickets, visit ctcharlotte.org or call (704) 973-2828.