By Myki Jones
The Stage of Life Theatre Company (SoL Theatre) recently presented “Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story,” an adaptation by Jerry R. Montoya of the Charles Dickens classic. This was the nonprofit youth theater company’s first live performance since March of 2020, just before the COVID-19 lockdowns went into place.
Although SoL Theatre took a long hiatus from live performances, they continued to actively produce shows by other means. This included nine radio plays aired by KDNK and four films, one of which is an original piece produced in partnership with Thunder River Theatre Company (“Woody and Dumpling and the Journey Back to Normal,” archived on YouTube at: bit.ly/TRTCSoL). SoL Theatre also hosted numerous camps throughout their 18 months spent off-stage due to the pandemic.
It was with great excitement that the children returned to live performance with this adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” one of the most widely-recognized and cherished holiday stories. For theater enthusiasts, it is always fun to see how a particular company brings to life this story’s unforgettable characters, particularly Ebeneezer Scrooge and the three ghosts that come to haunt him.
The show, as it has been performed on-stage and in film, is whimsical, magical, dramatic and altogether heartwarming, with the main character traveling through time to learn life lessons.
The cast and crew at SoL Theatre did a wonderful job with their portrayal. The children actors carried themselves with grace and engaged the audience in their performance. For example, cast members got everyone to sing together a rendition of the classic carol “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
Jennifer Johnson, SoL Theatre executive director and the director of the show, said that the process of putting “A Christmas Carol” together was rewarding but also required some extra work, given the amount of time they spent off-stage.
“Getting back in the swing of rehearsal, making sure the kids are memorizing their lines, learning their blocking and getting a show up and running — it was a little rickety!” said Johnson. “It’s been really fun, mildly challenging and completely rewarding — but weird.”
The theater company strives to cultivate life skills for children and young adults through theatrical training. The ultimate goal, according to their website, is “to produce the most professional children’s theatre possible.”
This is accomplished through mentorship and role modeling by older students, utilizing Montessori teaching methods that Johnson picked up during her time working at Ross Montessori in Carbondale.
“Their roles grow as their experiences grow,” explained Johnson. “So, whatever they’re ready for next developmentally is what they find themselves in. It’s very rarely based on ‘how talented is this kid,’ and more so ‘are they ready for this challenge and other responsibilities?’”
SoL Theatre will celebrate ten years in operation in February of 2022, and Johnson shared some insight as to what audiences, parents and students can expect for the future. This includes, for the first time in almost two years, a whole season of live shows.
“We’ve been around for a decade now and it’s been primarily one or two people working here and we’re hoping to change that. We’re hoping to bring in new teachers, voices and management to expand our reach,” stated Johnson.
The shows that people can expect to see in the upcoming season are “Little Women,” “Little Shop of Horrors,” “Seussical Jr.,” “The Witches” as a radio play in the fall and “Anni.” Johnson also mentioned that they are hoping to collaborate with Sopris Soarers for a special Halloween or Día de Muertos performance.
For more information about SoL Theatre, upcoming productions, enrollment opportunities, to make a donation or for audition information, visit: www.SoLtheatrecompany.org