BR gets double dose of seasonal theater

For the first time, Theatre Baton Rouge is staging simultaneous holiday productions — “A Christmas Carol” and “The Santaland Diaries.”

And it’s keeping Keith Dixon on the run. Not only is Dixon the theater’s artistic director, he’s directing “A Christmas Carol” and is starring as the character known simply as The Slacker in David Sedaris’ essay-turned-play.

On this particular Sunday afternoon, Dixon is scrambling to get everyone on stage for a rehearsal of Charles Dickens’ famous work because he’ll have to turn his attention to “The Santaland Diaries” in the coming week.

Directing a large theatrical production is difficult enough, but starring in a one-man show at the same time seems almost impossible. It’s made easier by the fact that half of the cast is returning for a third run of “A Christmas Carol,” which opens Friday on the theater’s main stage.

“We made a three-year commitment to ‘A Christmas Carol’ in the first year,” says Mike Katchmer, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge. “There will probably be someone else playing Scrooge next year, but I’m back, and I know the role.”

Dixon will relinquish director duties to Kurt Hauschild for the week while he works on his own performance in “Santaland,” which opens Thursday in the theater’s Social Room. The production is a fundraiser for the theater and will be performed cabaret style.

“‘The Santaland Diaries’ starts at 10 o’clock each night, so you can go to the Social Room after watching ‘A Christmas Carol,’ sit at a table and relax,” Dixon says. “You’re even welcome to bring a drink.”

He says the two plays cover the holiday spectrum.

  • “We’ll have a play about finding the spirit of Christmas on the main stage, and a play about the cynical side of Christmas in the Social Room,” Dixon says. “‘The Santaland Diaries’ is so funny, and ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a timeless story.”

Dixon isn’t the only person pulling double duty between the two plays. Hauschild may be stepping in this week as director of “Carol,” but he’s also playing the Ghost of Christmas Present. And he’s directing “The Santaland Diaries.”

“We’re juggling,” Dixon says, laughing.

Most everyone knows the story of Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, who gives up his miserly ways to embrace the spirit of Christmas after life-changing Christmas eve journey with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. This stage adaptation was written by Romulus Linney.

“We’ve made a few changes,” Dixon says. “We auditioned about 70 kids, and we cast half of them. We’ve also made some set changes, and we have some new cast members in key roles. It gives the show a different personality, and though the story is the same, anyone who comes to see it will be seeing a different show.”

The cast also will be singing added Christmas carols between scenes.

Joe Mantello wrote the stage adaptation of “The Santaland Diaries,” which is based on Sedaris’ experience working as an elf in Macy’s Santa’s Workshop during the holiday crunch.

The Slacker is humiliated at first but then becomes battle weary and bitter. His only consolation: some of the other elves were television extras on “One Life to Live,” so he grins and bears it, taking out his frustration on the children and parents alike.

  • CAST: Mike Katchmer, Scrooge; Davis Hotard, Bob Cratchet; Travis H. Williams, Fred; Tim Beckstrom, Gentleman Michael Sager; Caroline Feduccia, Boy Caroler; Natalie Sibille, Caroline; Tyler Grezaffi, Caroline’s Husband and Mr. Topper; Ronnie Stutes, Marley; Nancy Litton, Ghost of Christmas Past and Undertaker’s Woman; Anthony Bailey, Boy Scrooge; Thomas Prochaska, Orson; Thomas Hernandez, Valentine John; Gabrielle Eaves, Fan; Lee Allen, Mr. Fezziwig, Man in the Park and Businessman; Kelly Martin, Mrs. Fezziwig; Kenneth Mayfield, Young Scrooge; Melissa Seidule, Belle; Pat Pitre, Woman in the Park; Kurt Hauschild, Ghost of Christmas Present; Susannah Craig, Mrs. Cratchit; Manny Bailey, Peter; Brooke Bell, Gillian; Grace Martin, Miranda; Emily Bailey, Belinda; Coleen Leslie, Martha;Addie Prochaska, Tiny Tim; Hannah Parsons, Lucy; Virginia Moore, Ignorance; Natalie Feduccia, Wont; Anthony Pierre Jr., Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come; Michael Sager, Businessman; Bill Martin, Old Joe; Carole Moore, Charwoman; Crystal Brown, Laundress; Ensemble: Hannah Tanib, Brady Ferachi, Meridith Madison, Mathilde Bergeron, Sydney Prochaska, Caroline Collins, Jordan Simoneaux, Chaislyn King, Kennedy Ross, Palmer Bruns, Emily West, Madison Bridges, Abigail Kennedy, Harrison Owens, Varland Owens, Shane Dearman, Tyler Robbins, Abigail Robbins, Emily LeBlanc, Issac Landry, Darla Schaler, Thomas Griffith, Antonio Collins, Jeremy Downey, Spring Garcia, Steve Garcia, Jeff Johnson, Anne Woods, Travis H. Williams, Michael Sager, Tim Beckstrom, Caroline Feduccia, Natalie Sibille, Tyler Grezaffi, Nancy Litton, Anthony Bailey, Thomas Prochaska, John Thomas Hernandez, Gabrielle Eaves, Lee Allen, Kelly Martin, Melissa Seidule, Pat Pitre, Susannah Craig, Manny Bailey, Brooke Bell, Grace Martin, Emily Bailey Coleen Leslie, Addie Prochaska, Hannah Parsons, Virginia Moore, Natalie Feduccia, Anthony Pierre Jr., Bill Martin, Carole Moore, Nancy Litton, Crystal Brown.