Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

A holly jolly mood at Gallery Theater, Pentacle Theatre, and Theatre in the Grove

Theater companies in McMinnville, Salem, and Forest Grove stage holiday plays, including a new “Christmas Carol,” and look ahead to their 2023 seasons.

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Gallery Theater offers “A Christmas Carol,” written and directed by John Hamilton, through Dec. 18.
Gallery Theater offers “A Christmas Carol,” written and directed by John Hamilton, through Dec. 18.

It would be ill-advised to state precisely how many adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol are out there, because even if you managed to nail it down for a report like this, the number might have changed by the time the story appeared.

Suffice to say, the newest version we know about may be seen on stage this month in McMinnville. Gallery Theater gets to slap “world premiere” on its promotions for an original play written and directed by a local, John Hamilton, whose previous work on Gallery’s stage was directing Swimming in the Shallows. This Christmas Carol opened last weekend and runs through Dec. 18.

The show is reportedly a creative amalgam of dozens of productions Hamilton, a Washington, D.C., transplant, has seen over the years on stage and screen and includes the use of puppetry for the show’s supernatural elements. If recent history is any indication, you’d be wise to get your tickets now; the last two Gallery shows sold out quickly, and given the proximity to Christmas, adding performances to accommodate swelling demand would be, at best, problematic. Get your tickets here or call 503-472-2227.

ONE NIGHT ONLY:  Squeezed into the middle of the Christmas Carol run at Gallery is a one-night-only performance, Dec. 15, billed as Eclectic Christmas, featuring holiday tunes in styles such as jazz, folk, pop, and bluegrass. Musicians include Nathaniel Ankeny, Nate Macy, Aaron Pruitt, Nolan Koskela-Staples, Melissa Thomas, and Frank Verhoon. Tickets are $25.

Jared Richard is the new manager of Gallery Theater in McMinnville. Photo credit: Lydia Kent Photography
Jared Richard is the new manager of Gallery Theater in McMinnville.

THERE’S A NEW MANAGER IN TOWN: Gallery Theater’s board moved quickly this month to fill the managerial position that will be vacated by Seth Renne, who will continue to volunteer and direct at the McMinnville theater but is taking a job with the Broadway Rose Theatre in Tigard. Gallery tapped Jared Richard, president of the Salem Theatre Network, to take over the day-to-day management of the two-stage nonprofit theater starting this month.

Richard has been doing the theater thing since he was a kid, in school, church, and community productions, and has also worn many hats behind-the-camera in film production. For the past decade, he’s been performing stand-up comedy and improv, and from 2015-2020 was co-owner and programming manager of Capitol City Theater in Salem.

“I couldn’t be more excited about the future of Gallery Theater,” Richard said in a prepared statement. “What Seth and the countless other hard-working members have established here is truly something special. There is so much opportunity for the McMinnville area, and I hope to expand the visibility of what’s possible here and showcase the Gallery for just how much they’ve achieved and deserve to be spotlighted for doing.”

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LOOKING AHEAD TO 2023: Gallery’s 2023 regular season launches Feb. 17 with a production of Into the Woods (directed by Renne) but they’ve squeezed in some extra theater before that. A pair of one-acts will be staged Jan. 13-15: Horton Foote’s 2002 play The Actor and Christopher Durang’s 1981 comedy The Actor’s Nightmare, which is not a comedy for the main character, George Spelvin, who is mistaken for an understudy and finds himself in a play for which he doesn’t know any lines. The performances will also feature a tribute to Barbara Jelinek, a long-time Gallery actor and director who died  earlier this year in Seattle. In March, one-acts return to the stage when Gallery hosts a festival competition under the auspices of the American Association of Community Theatre.

The cast of Pentacle Theatre’s production of “The Fantasticks” in includes (from left) Jeff Sanders as Hucklebee, Noah Miller as Matt, Phoebe Jacobs as Luisa, Robert Henry as Bellomy, Zach Brehm as El Gallo, and (back) Anthony Redelsperge as The Mute. Photo by: Vicki Woods, courtesy Pentacle Theatre
The cast of Pentacle Theatre’s production of “The Fantasticks” includes (from left) Jeff Sanders as Hucklebee, Noah Miller as Matt, Phoebe Jacobs as Luisa, Robert Henry as Bellomy, Zach Brehm as El Gallo, and (back) Anthony Redelsperge as The Mute. Photo by: Vicki Woods, courtesy Pentacle Theatre

PENTACLE THEATRE: The West Salem-based theater is in musical mode for the holidays, with a production of The Fantasticks, with music by Harvey Schmidt and book and lyrics by Tom Jones. Cherie Ulmer directs the production, which runs through Dec. 17. Tickets available here.

The 2023 season, which includes some heavy stuff with The Crucible and Rabbit Hole, kicks off Jan. 13 with J.B. Priestly’s An Inspector Calls, directed by Isaac Joyce-Shaw. And here’s an interesting note: Squeezed between that first show and an early spring production of Shrek, Pentacle will offer a one-weekend encore performance of Terra Nova. The theater mounted a riveting production of Ted Tally’s little-performed play about the Scott expedition to Antarctica last summer but had to cancel the final weekend because of a medical emergency. Cast and crew have agreed to return under the direction of Scott Ramp for three more performances the second weekend of February.

Actors rehearsing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" in "World War II Radio Christmas" include Nick Rock, Mark Ferris, Sarah Radley, Tom Swendig, Stephen Radley, Jordyn Rock, Avery Cody, Sahalie Bohren, and Micha Beukelman. Photo courtesy: Theatre in the Grove
Actors rehearsing “World War II Radio Christmas” at Theatre in the Grove include Nick Rock, Mark Ferris, Sarah Radley, Tom Swendig, Stephen Radley, Jordyn Rock, Avery Cody, Sahalie Bohren, and Micha Beukelman.

THEATRE IN THE GROVE: Forest Grove’s community theater is back on the boards at last. On Friday, it opens a three-week run of World War II Radio Christmas, which depicts the Christmas Eve recording of a 1940s radio show with period songs and stories inspired by real veterans. The show was written by Pat Kruis Tellinghusen, and Stayton High School drama teacher Evan Tait directs. The season in Forest Grove straddles calendar years, so rounding out the 2022-23 season are Hand to God, opening Jan. 27; Big Fish: The Musical, opening March 31; and Noises Off, opening May 26.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

David Bates is an Oregon journalist with more than 20 years as a
newspaper editor and reporter in the Willamette Valley, covering
virtually every topic imaginable and with a strong background in
arts/culture journalism. He has lived in Yamhill County since 1996 and
is working as a freelance writer. He has a long history of involvement in
the theater arts, acting and on occasion directing for Gallery Players
of Oregon and other area theaters. You can also find him on
Substack, where he writes about art and culture at Artlandia.

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