A Hidden Gift Amongst Holiday Show Standards; a Sonoran Desert Delight

by Mara Capati

Felíz Torralba, Xochitl Martinez, Molly Lyons, Helene Krzyzanowski, and Andy Gonzalez photo cred to Tim Fuller

“It was truly a joy to watch all of these beloved characters weave in and out of multiple contrasting roles with such seamless transition and believable delivery.”

A Sonoran Desert Carol is truly anything but just a “play.” It is a celebration of the culture and the essence of our home in the southwest. This heart-warming story is an adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, developed and workshopped by the production’s creative team. This reimagination transports local audiences to a place that feels just as nostalgic as the tale itself. You don’t quite know what to expect with this adaptation and that alone creates half of the mystery and magic behind the journey. The play follows the life of Mr. Eli Rumpet, a wildly successful businessman whose greed and selfish decisions lead to an intervention of the heart by otherworldly beings. The hardships and pleas by the people who make up the few relationships in Mr. Rumpet’s life challenge him to reexamine the consequences of his choices, but most importantly, show him that the potential losses of his investments — both literal and metaphorical — go far beyond the material realm and are quite grave, indeed. I hesitate to reveal anything more specific on the delicate unfolding of this story and will leave it to the “time beings” and talented cast to share what is not only theirs but “our story,” with people like you and me.

Director Rick Wamer orchestrates several elements of storytelling that encapsulate the heart of theatre. From traditional stage acting, to box puppetry, to shadow work, to song, and interpretive movement, there is no shortage of creativity in the delivery methods here. The audience is pulled in from the start, with active participation, immersion, and engagement. Wamer takes every opportunity to fully integrate the ensemble, and yes, this is a full ensemble production. Wamer makes it clear that every role, character, voice, and opinion is absolutely necessary to give justice to the message of this production. I cannot speak highly enough of the fluidity of the integration of lighting and sound design to create the effect of immersive transportation of the audience. The technical and human elements in the production truly move as one body from start to finish.

The first individuals I believe that are absolutely necessary to highlight in this production are the youth actors or “scamps.” Though it was mentioned prior to the show that a few young students would be featured, I forgot countless times during the production that these were “novice” students,” because let me tell you, the level of energy, clear acting choices, and unity was consistent and brought to the stage over and over again. If these scamps are any reflection of the quality of education and experience being provided at The Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre to youth, then every family needs to look into getting their children enrolled in a workshop or two. The youth were an essential part of the success of this performance, no question there.

Gretchen Wirges played a fabulous and believable Eli Rumpet. Careful attention and diligence was given to all of this character’s mannerisms that paint a “Scrooge-like” force that would rival that of even Ebenezer himself. The evolving character development and resolution that Wirges delivers throughout this production is truly moving and memorable.

I can’t praise enough the clever utilization of the ensemble as characters, props, voices, moving set pieces, and so on — and I won’t get anymore specific than that for fear of spoiling the magic. It was truly a joy to watch all of these beloved characters weave in and out of multiple contrasting roles with such seamless transition and believable delivery. I recall several scenes on stage where the entire cast was moving as one heart-beat and it was absolutely stunning visually. There is a highly effective play on balance and asymmetry all throughout this play kinetically speaking. The “otherworldly” and the “human world” do a delicate dance back and forth but create clear veils between the two as well as bridge a common ground due to the successful delivery and distinctions made by the actors. I can only imagine the repetition, teamwork, and countless hours of focus it takes to capture this type of harmony live on stage.

I am a lover of the holiday season and cheer like many others but there is something unique about this production that truly moves my heart into a space of holiday warmth and gratitude. Maybe it was hearing traditional songs that my family has sung since I was a child around the holiday times, or remembering the scent of fresh tamales and sweet endearments from my mother as a youth in our native language, just like in this rendition of the traditional Christmas Carol story. The diversity and cultural inclusion shared in this production is something that brings me great gratitude for my own roots and upbringing. Gratitude from experiencing blessings and togetherness is a feeling that we all understand regardless of our various walks of life, but it was something else altogether to feel as though I could see my only family or that of my friends and loved ones on stage; their story brought to life for all to see. That is a feeling I’ve only experienced a handful of times as I have watched countless productions in the past with predominantly white, cisgendered, straight, traditional families. I feel grateful for getting to partake in what to me has always been a classic; a story I can relate to, and a story that is my own in many ways.

I highly recommend individuals and families of all ages come and support this fantastic cast and crew! See A Sonoran Desert Carol at the Scoundrel and Scamp Theatre. 

The show is running this upcoming weekend at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre at The Historic Y (738 N 5th Avenue #131, Tucson, AZ, 85705): 

Thursday, December 16, 2021 @ 7:30pm (6:45pm Pre-show event), 

Friday, December 17 and Saturday, December 18, 2021 @ 7:30pm, 

and Sunday, December 19, 2021 @ 2pm. 

Tickets are $30 for General Admission, $28 for Seniors, $15 for Students and Teachers, and $15 for Theatre Artists. They can be purchased online at https://scoundrelandscamp.org/a-sonoran-desert-carol or by contacting the Box Office at (520) 448-3300. Masks and proof of vaccination are required to attend.

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