Virginia Stage

Thanksgiving play pokes fun at ‘performative’ white allies while educating on the true origin of the holiday

By SALEEN MARTIN
THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT | JAN 31, 2022 AT 10:19 AM

Performers rehearsing for the Virginia State Company's "The Thanksgiving Play." The play was originally written by Native American playwright and choreographer Larissa FastHorse. It's showing from Jan. 19, 2022 to Feb. 6, 2022 at the Wells Theatre in Norfolk and was directed by Jessica Holt. (Courtesy of Crystal Tuxhorn)

Jessica Holt was researching Thanksgiving pageants for her current Virginia Stage Company production when she came across a revealing photo.

It was a scene from a 1920 play in which a group of white actors was dressed as pilgrims. Surrounding them were more white actors with painted faces and heads wrapped in feather headbands, an offensive portrayal of Native Americans.

“You can see how these were using redface in such damaging and corrosive ways,” Holt said.

It was the perfect preparation for “The Thanksgiving Play,” which is playing through Feb. 6 at the Wells Theatre.

The play was written by Native American playwright and choreographer Larissa FastHorse in 2015. She is based in Santa Monica, California and is a member of the Sicangu Lakota Nation.

The play is about “performative wokeness,” FastHorse said during a 2018 interview with Playwrights Horizons. The play follows four white people crafting a “culturally sensitive” Thanksgiving play for children during Native American Heritage Month.

Tom Quaintance, producing artistic director at VSC, reached out to Holt last summer. He thought Holt — a white, queer, cisgender woman — had the perspective and cultural understanding to direct the play. Holt was initially hesitant since she’s not Native, but the more she read, the more comfortable she felt.

“This play is lampooning and making fun of white folks for 90 minutes,” Holt said. “You need to have the perspective of whiteness in the room because ultimately, that’s what the play is about. It’s about these white folks that are all trying to do the right thing and are finding the limits of white progressivism.”

To direct the performance, she read up on early Thanksgiving plays and pageants, which “mystified” Native Americans and melded them into one idea when in reality, they’re quite diverse.

For example, there are currently 11 tribes recognized in Virginia, including the Mattaponi, Upper Mattaponi and Pamunkey. In Hampton Roads, members of the Nansemond tribe live in Suffolk and Chesapeake, while those in the Cheroenhaka Nottoway and Nottoway tribes live in Southampton County, according to the Commonwealth of Virginia website.

There are also groups like the Red Crooked Sky, a Virginia-based American Indian dance troupe, Holt said. The troupe is based in southeastern Virginia and represents a host of tribes, including Cherokee, Nansemond, Sioux, Meherrin, Osage, Seneca and Monacan.

Performers rehearsing for the Virginia State Company's "The Thanksgiving Play." The play was originally written by Native American playwright and choreographer Larissa FastHorse. It's showing from Jan. 19, 2022 to Feb. 6, 2022 at the Wells Theatre in Norfolk and was directed by Jessica Holt. (Courtesy of Crystal Tuxhorn)

Holt also worked with Courtney Mohler, a dramaturgical consultant who provides research and information to help produce more informed performances.

Mohler teaches theater at the Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana and is the associate dean for inclusion, diversity, equity, and access for the university’s Jordan College of Art.

She shared scholarly articles with the cast and crew about issues such as white privilege, white identity and allyship.

Mohler said the play is extremely funny and illustrates how American theater frequently leaves out Native American perspectives and characters, which is incredibly damaging.

For example, November kicks off the holidays for most Americans. It’s also Native American Heritage Month, so the two often get pushed together in people’s minds, she said.

“Like, ‘Oh, yeah. Thanksgiving is there. And Indians are there. That’s the beginning of America,’” she said. “Unfortunately, that story totally ignores the fact that America was not discovered by Europeans.…Indigenous people were already here with civilizations and languages and cultures, their own belief systems, their own governmental systems, their own art.”

That part is often overshadowed in U.S. history lessons by tales of Native people greeting Pilgrims with corn and other foods. Also erased are the diseases and genocide that killed thousands of Indigenous families.

Performers rehearsing for the Virginia State Company's "The Thanksgiving Play." The play was originally written by Native American playwright and choreographer Larissa FastHorse. It's showing from Jan. 19, 2022 to Feb. 6, 2022 at the Wells Theatre in Norfolk and was directed by Jessica Holt. (Courtesy of Crystal Tuxhorn)

The play highlights issues such as white privilege, white identity and “wokeness” through comedy and satire, which are different, according to FastHorse and Holt.

“Satire is more biting than comedy,” Holt said. “It doesn’t let us off the hook. We are given permission to laugh with comedy; the satire means we are also laughing at ourselves. This satire deliciously roasts these four well-meaning white allies who are trying their best to tell a socially responsible Thanksgiving play that both honors Thanksgiving AND Native American Heritage Month and are epically failing.”

The play, in turn, creates a space for viewers to get over their fear of making mistakes, to laugh at themselves and learn more about how to be real allies. That means checking privilege and, in some cases, giving up that privilege.

Mohler, the consultant, said the play is humorous because the characters are desperate to do an impossible thing — produce a culturally sensitive play for elementary school students that’s also accurate.

The characters either have to admit the violence that happened toward Native people or perpetuate a lie.

The characters, she said, come to a conclusion that many well-meaning allies come to.

Audiences are “really going to laugh hard and then they’ll also be thinking hard about why they were laughing; that’s my favorite combination.”

Saleen Martin, 757-446-2027, saleen.martin@pilotonline.com

Virginia Stage Company's "The Thanksgiving Play" on Coast Live

By: Coast Live Posted at 1:10 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 7:33 AM, Jan 21, 2022

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - How does one celebrate Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month at the same time? In Larissa FastHorse’s biting satire, this is the question facing three “woke” white thespians tasked with devising an elementary school pageant about the first Thanksgiving while avoiding any culturally appropriative missteps. Ryan Clemens, who will be playing Jaxton in Virginia Stage Company's production of "The Thanksgiving Play", joins us with the details.

Catch "The Thanksgiving Play" January 19 - February 6, 2022.

Thanksgiving Play | Meet the Dramaturgy w/ Courtney Mohler

Please join VSC Marketing Associate Connor Norton as he welcomes and introduces VSC to Dr. Courtney Mohler the Dramaturg/Cultural Consultant on VSC’s The Thanksgiving Play.

Contextualizing The Thanksgiving Play in the American Theatre

In 1931, playwright Lynn Riggs (Cherokee) was the first Native American playwright to have a full-length play produced on Broadway.  Lovingly dramatizing characters from his youth in Indian Territory at the turn of the century, Green Grow the Lilacs had a modest run of 64 performances.  Some years later Rodgers and Hammerstein adapted Riggs’ script into what would become the musical sensation Oklahoma!  In addition to replacing the Indian Territory folk songs with flashy Broadway musical numbers, Rodgers and Hammerstein omitted Riggs’ references to Native identity, traditions, and cultural concerns.  

As of 2022, Broadway has yet to mount a full production of another play by a Native American identified playwright.  However, as a testament to a more inclusive view of American storytelling and to Sicangu Lakota playwright Larissa FastHorse’s talent and tenacity, FastHorse became the first Native American playwright to receive the MacArthur Genius Award in 2020.  The Thanksgiving Play was among the top ten most produced in the 2019-2020 season, and continues to entertain audiences across the nation as theatres re-open their doors for the 2021-2022 season.

Despite what may appear to be sudden success, FastHorse has been writing plays for well over a decade. FastHorse considers her activism to be inseparable from her work in the theatre, and sees her plays as an opportunity to connect Native and non-Native communities.  Her work frequently features one or more Native American characters, and always seeks to explore issues and concerns that are central to Indigenous people.  Unfortunately, this has meant that many of FastHorse’s works have been deemed “unproducible,” because mainstream theatre companies assume it is impossible to find Native actors to cast.

Frustrated but determined, FastHorse decided to write a play that would call for four white-presenting actors, thereby erasing the perceived obstacle around casting. Responsible to her own activist agenda, FastHorse also set out to write this very funny, very producible play in a way that would reflect her dedication to illuminating present-day concerns for Native Americans.  This includes the national attachment non-Indigenous peoples have toward the ideas of Thanksgiving, “discovery,” and early European “contact” in the Americas. As a playwright, FastHorse also harnessed her own experience working in a field dominated by well-meaning white allies and the decades of obstacles she and other Indigenous artists face to make a seat at the table of theatrical representation.  

The Thanksgiving Play draws a parallel between the white privilege of not seeing settler colonialism as active and pervasive and the white ownership over cultural institutions including the American theatre. At the core of this play are the questions: Who gets to tell whose stories? Who benefits from telling the Thanksgiving myth as a peaceful celebration of two neutral cultures celebrating friendship together? What are the limits of white allyship and well-meaning “diversity” centered work?  And when does the artistic impulse to make something “meaningful” brush up against institutional expectations to “do the right thing,” or “to not offend anyone”?  Is it the job of (white) American theatre to “make space” for culturally diverse stories? And if these stories can’t be done “authentically,” is the right approach to do abandon those efforts all together?  Who benefits from passive white allyship?  And more importantly, if we are complicit in advancing white-centered stories at the expense of BIPOC ones, how do we change that?  

-Courtney Elkin Mohler, Ph.D (Santa Barbara Chumash)

PRESS RELEASE: Virginia Stage Company’s The Thanksgiving Play Shares New Perspective on the Month of November

Norfolk, VA - When a collection of teachers are challenged to write a play about the History of Thanksgiving, hilarity and challenging questions ensue in Larissa FastHorse’s (Sicangu Lakota) gripping comedy The Thanksgiving Play to open at The Historic Wells Theatre (108 E. Tazewell Street, Norfolk VA) from January 22nd to February 6th. 

When well-meaning and slightly radical educator Logan is challenged to create a play about the origin of Thanksgiving, she recruits her yoga-loving boyfriend Jaxton to assist her and fellow history teacher Caden in writing an educational play about the origins of Thanksgiving, and addressing the perspectives of the Native Americans not heard in the story’s original telling. After Logan’s failed past educational productions, parent outcry threatens her job if the play doesn’t go well, so with the help of a grant she recruits Alicia, an “authentic” Native American actor from L.A. to lend her “unique perspective in the development of this play. Through a series of witty jokes, quick wit, and only slightly-veiled probing questions; Larissa FastHourse (Sicangu Lakota) asks the audience how we have told a story for so long without asking the very people this story was about.

Larissa FastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) workshopped this masterclass production in satirical performance at UC Berkeley in 2015 following it’s writing and inception in Ireland as part of the Joe Dowling Fellowship. It was then workshopped in Portland, Oregon at the Artists Repertory Theatre before making it’s way to a world premier at Playwrights Horizons in New York City on October 12, 2018. In an interview with The Interval before the world premier of the production, Larissa shared her insights on the process and importance of the work:

 “I think if we wrote down everything I’ve experienced as an Indigenous person in this country just walking down the street, it would be such a depressing tragedy that no one would want to watch it. So instead, I made a comedy, within a satire, to make it a little more fun for everybody. [In the play] we have some very well-meaning liberal white folks that are in charge of creating this play that’s supposed to be for children. It’s supposed to be educational and enlightening and progressive, and all the good things for Native American Heritage Month and Thanksgiving—and, for me, it’s always ironic that we have Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Month at the same time. It’s always been fascinating to me that we have this really problematic holiday that’s supposedly celebrating Native American people and coming together, but in reality, A.) everything we’ve learned about it is a fiction, and B.) the potential true origins of Thanksgiving are incredibly gruesome and really horrible and have nothing to do with peace and happiness, and they’re actually about genocide. So obviously that means comedy. I hope what these folks that I’m actually talking about in my play take away from it is this: let’s just all make the mistake together, let’s all be ridiculous together, and then that gives us somewhere to go. If I know where you’re coming from, you know where I’m coming from, and you can make mistakes, and I can make mistakes, and we can all get kind of crazy and yell at each other, but keep moving forward, that’s going to change everything. It truly will.”

Jessica Holt (Sense & Sensibility, Fun Home, Venus in Fur) returns to VSC after most recently directing a virtual devised piece called Something Delightful at a time when audiences could not gather. The creative team also includes Charlotte Bydwell (choreographer), Edward Morris (scenic designer), An-lin Dauber (costume designer), David Castaneda (lighting designer), and Michael Costagliola (sound designer). Several familiar faces join this intimate four-person cast, including local actors Ryan Clemens (Christmas Carol, Guys & Dolls, Matilda) and Julian Stetkevych (Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice). The two local actors, playing Jaxton and Caden respectively, join two talented out of town actresses making their Virginia Stage Company debut, Lauren Blumenfled and Jenny Hickman take on the challenging roles of Logan and Alicia.

VACCINATION POLICY

Virginia Stage Company is requiring proof of vaccinations or a negative PCR COVID Test Result administered within 72 hours of entry to it’s productions. Only results provided by an FDA approved PCR test from a Medical Healthcare Professional, Lab, or Pharmacy will be accepted. Images of the front and back of the card will be accepted in lieu of the physical card, and masks will be required of all guests and individuals present in the space. For a full list of our entry procedures, please visit www.vastage.org/entry.

TICKETS

Performances of The Thanksgiving Play are scheduled Wednesday - Saturday at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 2pm and Sundays at 3pm at The Historic Wells Theatre, located at 108 E. Tazewell Street, Norfolk Va. Tickets range from $25 - $68. Subscription packages for Virginia Stage Company include a four show package starting at $120.00, or our flexible Theatre on Demand Packages starting at $196.00. Season Ticket holders receive numerous benefits, including 20% savings on every show, unlimited exchanges with no exchange fees, and additional discounts for in-house concessions and drinks.

Subscription packages and single tickets are on sale by calling the Box Office at (757) 627-1234 Monday through Friday from 10am - 5pm or visiting https://tickets.vastage.org/packages 

Interviews can be arranged by contacting Director of Marketing, Maris Smith, at msmith@vastage.org.

Virginia Stage Company is Southeastern Virginia’s leading theatre destination, serving an audience of over 58,000 annually, both at the Wells Theatre and throughout the community. Virginia Stage Company’s mission is to “enrich, educate, and entertain the region by creating and producing theatrical art of the highest quality.”

Experience the Wells Theatre in it's first Virtual Drone Tour Experience

Experience the Wells
#ThisBrilliantLife

Written & Directed by Connor Norton
Produced by TOCCreative
in collaboration with Lyfted Media
On-Stage Set Design by Dahlia Al-Habieli
On-Stage Light Design by Maranda Debusk


Featuring (in order of appearance) Crystal Tuxhorn, Kandis Hyde, Sharon McDonald, Brooke Parsley, Jackie King, Christopher Reybrouck, Andrew Wall, Dan Gallagher, Nathaniel Cody, Taylor Miller, Maris Smith, Beatty Barnes Jr., Adalee Alt, Tom Quaintance, Brock Baird, Dakotah Salazar, River Hayes, Alan Litz, Jessica Woodyard, Cristina Shafarman, Sara Schaefer, Greg Dragas, Peter Scheible, Tameika Hopkins, Samantha Notti, Brittany Alt, Paul Costen, Anna Sosa, Edwin Castillo, Emel Ertugrul, Bobby Mercer, Julieta Grey, Ryan Clemens, James Swindell, Sam Flint, Carolyn Thatcher, and Jessa Gaul.

Special thanks to Downtown 100 Norfolk Council, Core Theatre Ensemble, TOC Creative, Todd Rosenlieb Dance, and the staff of Virginia Stage Company

THE THANKSGIVING PLAY Cast + Creative Team

Creative Team

Jessica Holt †

(Director | she/her/hers) is thrilled to return to Virginia Stage Company to direct Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play. This marks her fifth time collaborating with VSC. Previous productions include Kate Hamill’s Sense and Sensibility, Fun Home, Venus in Fur, and the recent virtual production of Something Delightful. Additional selected directing credits include: Ironbound by Martyna Majok (A.C.T.), The Resting Place, Bright Half Life, The Lily's Revenge (Magic Theatre), Speech and Debate (Barrington Stage Company), Rich Girl (Florida Studio Theatre), The Daughters (San Francisco Playhouse), and Ugly Lies the Bone (Alliance Theater). She has also developed and directed work at Cape Cod Theatre Project, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Santa Cruz Shakespeare, Magic Theatre, Berkeley Rep's Ground Floor, Rivendell Theatre, NYU, Pocono Mountains Music Festival, Sewanee Writers Conference, among others. She is a proud graduate of the Yale School of Drama, where she received her MFA in Directing. Projects there include: The Seagull by Anton Chekhov, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, and the hip-hop musical The Children by Phillip Howze. She served as the Co-Artistic Director of the 2014 Yale Summer Cabaret, producing and directing a season of adventurous and daring work by contemporary American playwrights. Jessica is a 2016 National Directors Fellow with the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, NNPN, the Kennedy Center, and SDCF, as well as a proud member of the following organizations: SDC, Ring of Keys, and Wingspace where she is a mentor for early career directors. For the last three years, she has directed the A.C.T. MFA Actor Showcase and looks forward to directing the Class of 2022 this spring. www.jessicaholt.org

Larissa Fasthorse

(Playwright | she/her/hers) is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow, award winning writer/choreographer, and co-founder of Indigenous Direction, the nation’s leading consulting company for Indigenous arts and audiences. Her satirical comedy, The Thanksgiving Play (Playwrights Horizons/Geffen Playhouse), is one of the top ten most produced plays in America this season. She is the first Native American playwright in the history of American theater on that list. Additional produced plays include What Would Crazy Horse Do? (KCRep), Landless and Cow Pie Bingo (AlterTheater), Average Family (Children’s Theater Company of Minneapolis), Teaching Disco Squaredancing to Our Elders: a Class Presentation (Native Voices at the Autry), Vanishing Point (Eagle Project), and Cherokee Family Reunion (Mountainside Theater). hoganhorsestudio.com/about-larissa

Charlotte Bydwell

(Choreographer | she/her/hers) is thrilled to be returning for her fourth production with Virginia Stage Company and with director, Jessica Holt. Previous VSC credits include the role of Vanda in Venus in Fur and the choreography for Sense & Sensibility. Charlotte has performed & choreographed at other leading theaters around the country, including The Old Globe, Williamstown Theater Festival, The Public Theater and the Maltz Jupiter Theater. She most recently served as choreographer for the 2021 National Tour, New York City and Chappaqua Performing Arts Center productions of A Charlie Brown Christmas. She has also worked on camera in recognized film/TV productions, most notably as the season choreographer on Comedy Central’s series Alternatino. Charlotte created and teaches ‘Moving into Language’, an approach to acting that uses movement as a launching pad for building character, unlocking scenes and arriving at a unique interpretation of spoken material. The course has been offered through Gibney Dance, BeMoving and Dance Device Lab. Professional dance credits include: Monica Bill Barnes & Co. (The Joyce, American Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow), Keigwin + Co (The Joyce). Education: Juilliard School, Dance BFA. The Old Globe/USD Graduate Acting Program, Acting MFA.

Dr. Courtney Elkin Mohler

(Cultural Consultant | she/her/hers) is delighted to have the opportunity to give dramaturgical support to VSC’s production of one of her favorite plays by one of her favorite Indigenous artists! As a stage director and dramaturg, Mohler concentrates on new works that push aesthetic and political boundaries aimed to affect a more equitable world and is dedicated to supporting new work by Indigenous playwrights. Some recent dramaturgy credits include Lying with Badgers by Jason Grasl (Blackfeet) at Native Voices at the Autry (NVA), Desert Stories for Lost Girls by Lily Rushing in a co-produced staged reading with PlayPenn and NVA, and Yu-Che-Wah-Kehn (Bitter) by Vickie Ramirez (Tuscarora)recipient of the National New Play Network’s Smith Prize for Political Theatre. When not in rehearsal, Courtney spends her time serving as Associate Professor of Theatre and Associate Dean for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access in Jordan College or the Arts at Butler University where she teaches Theatre History, Performance Studies, and directs. Specializing in Critical Race Theory, Native American Theater, and Performance Studies, she has published articles in Theatre Topics, Modern Drama, Text and Presentation, Platform, and Ecumenica, and has contributed chapters to numerous edited anthologies.  She also co-authored Critical Companion to Native American and First Nations Theatre and Performance: Indigenous Spaces (2020 Bloomsbury-Metheun Press), and holds a doctorate in Critical Studies in Theatre from UCLA.

David Castaneda

(Lighting Designer | he/him/his) has shed light on more than 500 productions around the country including Parchman Hour and The Bluest Eye for VSC and will illuminate the upcoming Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Some bright moments in NYC: Broadway: Irena’s Vow (Tovah Feldshuh), Helen Hayes: Marvin’s Room (T.R. Knight), The Directors Company: Murder in the First (Chad Kimball), Public Theatre, Peculiar Works Project, Abingdon Theatre, NY Fringe Festival. Regional illuminations include Albany/Berkshire Ballet (NY/VT), Cape Fear Regional Theatre (NC), Broadway Rose (OR), Theatre Winter Haven (FL), Round Barn Theatre (IN), Temple Theatre (NC), Carousel Dinner Theatre (OH), Venice Stage(FL), Merrimack Rep (MA), ArtisTree Theatre Festival(VT), Seacoast Rep (NH), Millbrook Playhouse (PA), and many musicals in Spanish by ‘Misi’ in Bogota, Colombia. David radiates from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

Michael Costagliola

(Sound Designer | he/him/his) is a New York-based sound designer and composer. His work has been heard in New York in productions by The Public, New York Theatre Workshop, La MaMa, Rattlestick, and Ars Nova among others, as well as regionally at Two River Theater, Yale Rep, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, St. Louis Rep, and at various other theaters across the U.S., Europe, and India. BA in Music from Brown University, MFA in Sound Design from Yale School of Drama. michaelcostagliola.com

An-Lin Dauber

(Costume Designer | she/her/hers) is a New York based set and costume designer. Notable set and costume designs include Seven Guitars (Yale Repertory Theatre), Paul Swan is Dead and Gone (The Civilians), A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play (Alliance Theatre), It’s A Wonderful Life (Hartford Stage), And Then They Came For Me (Alabama Shakespeare Festival), The Song of Summer (Mixed Blood Theatre), The Rocky Horror Show (Park Square Theater), Macbeth (Theater Alaska), An Acorn; The Good Person of Szechwan (Brown/Trinity Rep), Marisol, Blood Wedding; The Bar Plays: Small Craft Warnings and The Time of Your Life; A Bright Room Called Day (The Williams Project), The Seagull (Serenbe Playhouse), Displaced: A Response to Qurban (Boston Conservatory at Berklee). She is a company member of The Williams Project, a living wage theater company committed to radical hospitality. MFA Yale School of Drama. www.anlindauber.com.

Edward Morris §

(Set Designer | he/him/his) Is a set and projections designer for live performance and a sustainability consultant. He believes in the power of art and design to increase empathy and facilitate positive social change. A member of United Scenic Artists Local 829 and Wingspace Theatrical Design, he graduated from University of Michigan with a BFA and holds an MFA in Scenic Design from the Yale School of Drama and has taught at The New School and Connecticut College. He keeps offices in New York and Oklahoma City where his wife Kelly Kerwin is the artistic director of Oklahoma City Repertory Theater. Edward has designed for Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center, Yale Repertory Theatre, Martha Graham Dance Company, LaMama, The Barrow Group, Goodspeed Opera House, Cherry Lane Theater, Opera Memphis, Parallel 45, Magic Theatre, Interlochen Shakespeare Festival, University of Michigan, Princeton University, and Columbia University among many others. Edward designed Halloween decorations for President Obama’s White House in 2015. https://www.edwardtmorris.com/

Kate Wellhofer *

(Stage Manager | she/her/hers) is thrilled to be making her Virginia Stage Company debut. Select past credits include: New York: Choir Boy (Manhattan Theatre Club); Kimberly Akimbo (Atlantic Theater Company); Merry Wives (Shakespeare in the Park: The Public Theater). Regional: One Man, Two Guvnors; A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Chautauqua Theater Company); Romeo and Juliet; Measure for Measure (Santa Cruz Shakespeare). BFA in Drama from New York University.

Cast

Lauren Blumenfeld *

(Logan) (she/her/hers) is thrilled to be reuniting with her former middle school drama teacher, Tom Quaintance, in her VSC debut. Some of Lauren's favorite theater credits include The Assembled Parties (Broadway), We are Proud to Present . . . (Soho Rep), and Sailor Man (NYC Fringe Award). She has performed abroad at the Old Vic (London) and regionally at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, the Old Globe (San Diego), and the Pittsburgh Public. Lauren was a series regular on the satirical television comedy Nightcap and has appeared in recurring roles on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, Limitless, Doubt, and Deadbeat. Lauren's voice is featured as a unicorn on Tony Hale's animated series Archibald's Next Big Thing (Netflix). Her short film, Stepdaddy, premiered at SXSW and won the Golden Space Needle Award at SIFF. Lauren is an Orchard Project Episodic Television Writing Fellow, as well as a proud volunteer at the 52nd Street Project (New York) and School on Wheels (Los Angeles).

Ryan Clemens *

(Jaxton) (he/him/his) is proud to work both on the main stage and with VSC's Education Department. VSC patrons may remember Ryan as Mr. Wormwood in Matilda; Trinculo in The Tempest; Lieutenant Brannigan in Guys & Dolls; Vinnie in The Odd Couple; Mortimer in The Fantasticks; Bob Cratchit, Old Joe, or Ghost of Christmas Present in several years' versions of A Christmas Carol; or as his famous relative Sam Clemens in his one-man show Meet Mark Twain. Originally from Wyoming, Ryan began his career in a travelling Wild West show. He has worked at theaters around the country, including several seasons locally with the Virginia Shakespeare Festival and Tidewater Stage Company. He performs with Plan B Comedy at Zeider's American Dream Theatre. Ryan holds a BA in Theatre from Western Washington University and an MFA in Acting from Regent University. He also teaches at ODU. www.clemensistwain.com

Julian Stetkevych *

(Caden) (he/him/his) is happy to be back with this wonderful cast and team. At VSC he has appeared in Sense & Sensibility and Pride & Prejudice. Off-off Broadway: Richard III and The Two Gentlemen of Verona with Oxford Shakespeare Co., Dog Act with Flux Theatre Ensemble, The Silent Concerto at NY Fringe Festival, and staged workshops and readings at Playwright’s Horizons, Classic Stage Company, and Ensemble Studio Theatre. Regional: A Christmas Carol at American Conservatory Theater, The Berlin Circle at Steppenwolf Theater, and Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Theo Ubique. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association and an Assistant Professor of Acting at Christopher Newport University. He holds MFAs from the American Conservatory Theater and the University of Pittsburgh.

Jenny Hickman *

(Alicia) (she/her/hers) is thrilled to be making her Virginia Stage Company debut! A New York City-based actor and classically trained singer, she was previously seen on the Broadway national tour of Hello, Dolly! (ensemble, u/s Irene, u/s Ernestina). Other recent credits include: Bull, What We're Up Against (both with New Wave Theater Collective), Mary Poppins (West Virginia Public Theater), Witches of Eastwick (Ogunquit Playhouse), Parade (The Carnegie Theater), Carrie (CCM, League of Cincinnati Theaters Award). Jenny holds a BFA in Musical Theater from the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and a BA in Psychology from the State University of New York. Love and thanks to her amazing family and her partner Nathan.

* Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
† Member of the Society for Stage Directors and Choreographers, Inc., an independent labor union
§ Member of United Scenic Artist Association, a labor union and association for Stage Artists, Craftspeople, and Department Coordinators.

Small cast, big story in Virginia Stage Company’s ‘A Merry Little Christmas Carol’

Small cast, big story in Virginia Stage Company’s ‘A Merry Little Christmas Carol’

The heavy fog that descends on the Wells Theatre stage announces that the Virginia Stage Company’s “A Merry Little Christmas Carol” will be a play of atmosphere and moods…there is an eeriness in any ghost story, and Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” from which this script is adapted, is arguably the English-speaking world’s favorite ghost story. While it has plenty of the expected suspense and hints of tragedy, this version of the three Christmas spirits reforming the old miser Ebenezer Scrooge is dominated by high-spirited joy, laughter and ebullient glee.