As the house lights dim, you hear the excited chatter of the audience subside into near-silence. You take a moment to take in this feeling: being cloaked in the darkness before the show starts, and the seconds of tranquility before a voice asks you to turn off your phone. Above all, it’s this feeling of gathering with other people in a space like none other…the theater. As the curtain rises, finally, you let out a breath you didn’t know you’d been holding.
Finally, after 20 months of isolation, 20 months of longing for the stage, we are live.
Everyone at Trinity Rep truly cannot underestimate how excited they are to welcome you back inside the Lederer Theater Center. For almost two years, our cast, crew, and staff have been counting down the days to this moment. And what better way to start out the season than with a timeless holiday classic and a beloved Rhode Island tradition?
Trinity Rep has staged A Christmas Carol for 45 consecutive years, including this year’s. Last year’s production, which was streamed on-demand online for free, was magical and like nothing the company’s ever done before. That doesn’t make us miss the live theater experience any less, though!
“I’ve been saying this to everyone who will listen: when you make live art, you need an audience!” Trinity Rep’s Artistic Director Curt Columbus said, “You can make wonderful content, but you can’t replace the experience of being around an audience. And that is especially true for something like A Christmas Carol, where you get to watch kids respond to live performance, which is such a different experience than any other kind of content.”
Live shows don’t just bring joy back to our audiences: it’s just as important for the theater’s crew, cast, and staff. Take Lizzy Pegler, a costume technician, who is running costumes for A Christmas Carol this year. That means it’s her job to make sure all of the performers get the right costumes on time and seamlessly (no pun intended!), and to handle quick changes, laundry, and last-minute repairs. As a costume technician, she also helps stitch, build, and alter costumes.
“It’s so special that we’re starting with A Christmas Carol because theater is magical and so is Christmas,” Lizzy said. “A Christmas Carol combines those aspects, and it’s such a Rhode Island tradition, so it being our first show is so, so magical!”
Lizzy joined Trinity Rep as an intern in 2016 before being hired full-time in 2018. But like many other artisans across the country, Lizzy was laid off during the pandemic. So now that she’s back at work, she can’t wait to reconnect with friends old and new. Lizzy describes theater as a collaborative art form, so working together with people she
hadn’t seen in months is incredibly exciting.
For Joe Wilson, Jr., a resident actor at Trinity Rep and the director of A Christmas Carol this year, the pandemic helped him realize how much of his inner circle is based in the theater community with Trinity Rep.
Joe said; “There was a sadness about that discovery, like, ‘Joe, get out and just meet some more people! But I don’t think I shouldn’t feel sad about that. I think that to be in a business, in a community where the people that I work with truly are friends of mine and part of my family is really a gift. And so I’m looking forward to getting back to those people that I love.”
Prop Supervisor Michael Getz agreed, adding that he can’t wait to experience energy in the theater with other people. He said people like Joe have an infectious enthusiasm that he can’t wait to experience again.
Jennifer McClendon is Trinity Rep’s producing director, meaning she manages all of the technical aspects of shows, including lights, costumes, props, sound, and scenery. She’s thrilled to return to the stage, and told us she’s excited to return with old staff and new hires.
“As cheesy as it may sound, I miss being in the room where it happens,” Jenn said. “I thrive off of collaboration and watching a single idea on a piece of paper or in an email, or maybe an image in a shared Google Drive turn into a complete piece of art on stage. It’s gratifying being a part of that process, facilitating and working with the production team to help them breathe life into their designs and concepts.”
Production Assistant Polly Feliciano helped create digital content and a few outdoor shows with Mixed Magic Theatre (founded by A Christmas Carol actor Ricardo Pitts-Wiley) during the pandemic. However, she told us that there was nothing like live theater with a full, in-person audience.
“Every little taste I could get of live theater made me happy, but it was never quite enough, I wanted more, I wanted to be back in the full swing of things.” Polly said. “If I can find a positive out of all of this, I have been reminded of WHY I love theater and who I do it for. I am so happy to be getting closer to being back in the full swing of things, and I’m so excited to welcome audiences back and share space and art with them.
Lizzy described this season as exciting not just because it is the first in nearly two years, but because of the shows Trinity Rep will perform. She said that the shows chosen for the season – Tiny Beautiful Things, Gem of the Ocean, Sueño, and Fairview – are “nothing like what the company’s done before.”
Joe said he’s looking forward to rediscovering the purpose of Trinity Rep’s work. Theater can not only entertain in times of turmoil but can also serve as a mirror to the modern world. For example, Trinity Rep has amped up its commitment to anti-racism recently, which shows such as Gem of the Ocean and Fairview address. Other shows, such as Tiny Beautiful Things, Sueño, and even A Christmas Carol, tackle themes of isolation, recovering from trauma, and community healing, all of which are relevant during a global pandemic. Ultimately, Joe hopes that Trinity Rep’s productions not only resonate with current events and feelings, but are enjoyable.
“That work is about making the best experience possible for people, putting on the best plays possible for people, and putting out the best work possible work that people feel is of, by, and for them,” Joe added.
As for Curt? He believes that live shows just might be what everyone needs right now.
“The whole world is hungry for live performance,” he remarked.