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American Theatre Company needs help updating Christmas classic

Posted at 3:23 PM, Feb 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-05 17:26:38-05

Putting away the Christmas decorations every year can be a time-consuming process. If you’re American Theatre Company, the trappings of Christmas fill two trucks, and their holiday tradition is in desperate need of an upgrade.

"A Christmas Carol" defines the holiday season in Tulsa.

Heading into its 43rd year, it's the most popular production in all of local theatre.

But when that magical set of Dickens' London is all stored away for the year, it fits inside two tractor trailers in a Tulsa storage yard.

‘And it's a beautiful, beautiful set and we've not really wanted to get rid of it, but it's just that it becomes an issue over time,’ said Meghan Hurley, executive director of American Theatre Company.

The issue is that it's 25 years old.

Those beautiful London buildings are actually muslin fabric stretched over wooden frames.

The entire set is heavy wood, and with each year's production, it gets a bit more worn out when it's struck and piled in these trucks.

The Ghost of Christmas Present's throne is a beauty from the audience, but in the truck, you can see the tangle of electrical cords in the back, and the loose pies and fruit that have to be re-attached every year to a beat-up frame.

‘Everything breaks down after time, I mean, it's like when you're buying a new couch, your couch breaks down after 5-10 years, right? We've stretched out the use of a set like this,’ Hurley said.

It takes a crew of 30 two days to set it all up before Thanksgiving, and two more to take it down after Christmas.

In fact, $20,000 of the $60,000 cost to present the show each year comes from set-up and take-down.

‘It was beautifully painted, it was beautifully designed, we just want to make sure that we preserve this show and in order to do that we have to rebuild pieces of it,’ Hurley said.

So American Theatre Company wants to raise $120,000 for a new Christmas Carol set, one using modern theatrical materials.

Easier to set-up and quicker to take down, to be kept in climate-controlled storage.

Yet carefully remaining mindful they're dealing with a Tulsa classic.

‘You love sticking with those classics, but there's something about having just that extra little ‘wow’ factor and that's what we want to add this year,’ Hurley said.
And the music that makes ATC's homegrown version of "Christmas Carol" such a treat hasn't been re-recorded since the beginning, so the plan is to create and record a new symphonic score, to give it more "oomph."

‘It's not about changing that, it's about just giving it an orchestra feel to it,’ Hurley said.

So that Scrooge and Tiny Tim can continue to create Christmas memories for generations to come.

‘And I've heard that from so many people that this is Christmas for them,’ Hurley said. ‘This is what their family does. And what we want to do again is preserve it, we want to make it whole again.’

If you'd like to contribute to building a new "Christmas Carol" set, you can donate by clicking here.

They'd like to get started building it in July.

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