One man. One stage. Six cameras. 18 different characters.
We’ve all seen an iteration of Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, but not like this.
TPAC Education teams up with veteran Nashville actor Mark Cabus for this one-man-show filmed on stage in TPAC’s Polk Theater. The best part? Not only will the film be available to schools for digital access through Dec. 18, TPAC is giving it away for free to anyone else who wants it, Dec. 11 - 31. Reservations will be available at TPAC.org starting Friday, Dec. 4, at 10 a.m.
Using Dicken’s original text, Cabus’ critically acclaimed adaptation has been performed for more than 20 years to tens of thousands of students and adults.
“Mark Cabus is an innovator, so as soon as things started happening this year, his was the first project that popped in my mind. I figured, if anyone could do this, he could,” says Roberta Ciuffo-West, Executive Vice President of Education at Tennessee Performing Arts Center.
“It works so well because the intimacy of being with Mark as he plays 18 different parts — you feel part of the story.”
Since the show is different each year based on what has happened, Cabus says it makes sense he performs this year to cameras instead of a live audience — something he had to adjust to.
“It’s a little different. There’s no audience, and of course the crew doesn’t clap for me,” Cabus jokes.
“Here you have 1,200 empty seats, and I’m just playing to six cameras that are three feet away from me. It’s a very odd, yet satisfying mix of theater and film.”
The filming experience was especially satisfying for Cabus for a few reasons: not only does Dec. 12 mark his 50th Anniversary as a professional actor, but Polk Theater was also the first Nashville stage he ever performed on when he was with what is now Nashville Repertory Theatre back in their second season.
“It was great being back in Polk Theater,” he says. “We got to shoot the film in big chunks and run through whole scenes; we also got to shoot in-sequence for a sense of continuity.”
Produced in association with RightBrainLeftBrain Entertainment, A Christmas Carol also features a new score by Grammy Award-winning songwriter and composer Mike Reid. The film is produced by Clarke Gallivan, Coke Sams and Dona Spangler and directed by Sams and Gallivan.
For Cabus, who also serves on the faculty of Belmont University, it all comes back to the story.
“I think the reason Christmas Carol is universal and so beloved is because it speaks to our time. It transcends period; it doesn’t necessarily have to be Victorian,” Cabus says. “I’m very moved by the fact TPAC Education was willing to do this and hang their hat on a project this ambitious.”
And the story’s message couldn’t come at a better time, according to Cabus.
“The beautiful message of this story is that there is always hope, whether it’s for a better day or better perspective,” he explains. “It doesn’t matter how deep the hole is. I mean, this story starts in a grave; and it’s a large and arduous journey for Scrooge. In the end, however, if he’s willing to listen, he’s willing to change his mind."
"There’s hope — the chance of things turning around. We just have to keep pushing forward, because all nights eventually come to an end.”
So, are filmed and staged performances going to be the foreseeable future for local and national theater? After the success of this summer’s Hamilfilm on Disney+, it certainly seems like there is an opportunity for the performing arts community, an industry which has been significantly crippled by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I know virtual work will never replace live theater, but it’s definitely opened up our eyes to this new possibility,” Ciuffo-West continued. “We’re so appreciative of the community staying connected to us. If families have suggestions, desires or questions, we are so happy to hear from them directly.”
As of today, TPAC's Season for Young People has over 18,000 students registered to view A Christmas Carol. The public can register for the public access of A Christmas Carol starting on Dec. 4 on TPAC's website. Those who have registered will receive the information to access and view the performance on Dec. 11.
For more information on the show and to register for a link, visit tpac.org.