“A Christmas Carol” Continues Holiday Tradition at UTEP

By Lisa Y. Garibay

UTEP News Service

Rehearsals are under way for this year’s production of A Christmas Carol, the celebrated play based on Charles Dickens’ timeless novel featuring Ebeneezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim, and some ghostly visitors who teach what the season is truly about.

Even though the production marks the sixth annual staging of A Christmas Carol, director Austin Savage is working hard to keep it fresh and exciting for audience members of all ages, whether or not they’ve seen it before.Brian Ceely, left, and Abel Garcia portray two of the main characters in the 2012 production of the holiday classic Brian Ceely, left, and Abel Garcia portray two of the main characters in the 2012 production of the holiday classic

“I was fortunate enough to direct last year's production and the department was pleased with my work enough to allow me this second opportunity,” said Savage, who graduated from UTEP in 2009 with a degree in theatre. “My goal is to build upon the work of my predecessors. Carlos Saldana, Nick Castanon, and Ross Fleming had already built a beautiful show that was the groundwork for my production last year. In 2011 I was able to place some nice details into the spirits and I was proud of the fact that I was able to find a student actor capable of playing Ebenezer Scrooge. This year, I'm keeping the additions from last year and looking to add some live music while exploring the character arcs of all the people that inhabit Scrooge's life.”

The play will be performed at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16; 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 21; and at 2:30 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 22 at the Wise Family Theatre on the second floor of the Fox Fine Arts Center. Tickets are $12 for adults, $9 for UTEP students and children ages 3-12, and $10 for UTEP faculty/staff, seniors, military, alumni (with card), non-UTEP students, or groups of 10 or more. The cast includes Abel Garcia as Ebenezer Scrooge, Brian Ceely as Charles Dickens/Bob Cratchit, and Roland Esparza as Fred.

Past versions of A Christmas Carol at UTEP have included reader’s theater (where the script was kept in hand by actors and read aloud rather than acted out) and a radio broadcast version that was part of UTEP’s “Season of Lights” celebration. Chuck Gorden, associate professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, adapted the version of the play that has been used consistently for the past five years.

While just 31 years old, Savage is already a veteran of A Christmas Carol, having performed a variety of roles in the play since 2007. He debuted the role of Charles Dickens/Bob Cratchit, then moved on to the role of Jacob Marley and finally tackled the character of Scrooge not just once, but twice before taking the reigns as the show’s director.

During his time at UTEP as both a student and a participant in theatre and dance department productions both on- and off-stage, Savage has been part of “almost too many [productions] to count,” which has made him all the more determined to ensure that whatever he works on next comes off as original and intriguing. He credits UTEP with giving him an introduction to the performing arts that sparked a passion that continues to this day.

“I had no intention of doing theater at all, but it has become my life,” Savage said. “It consumed me at UTEP and it has carried on after graduation.” Outside of his work with UTEP, Savage is contributing to the local fine arts by heading up The Border Theatre, which works to enrich the quality of life in El Paso and throughout the border region by offering original productions, workshops, classes and more.

For all the expertise he brings to the show, Savage is quick to insist that the credit belongs to his team.

“It’s a pretty spectacular feeling to know that everyone involved in the show is more talented than myself. They make the work easy,” he said. Barbara Evens, Daniel Rios, Ana Raga, and Allyson Borrego make up the directing/stage management crew; student designers are Yahaira Roman, Trent Ware, Zach Miles, Mark Sadler, Anessa Granado, and Nahtahnee Moreno. Set and costume design uses the same pieces created by Ross Fleming and Crystal Herman. “Their work is still beautiful after all these years,” Savage said.

For more information about A Christmas Carol, call the Department of Theatre and Dance at 915-747-5118 or visit http://theatredance.utep.edu/Site/Up_Coming_Shows.html.