Meet Rob Zapple, the writer of this special adaptation of “Christmas Carol”

Rob Zapple shares insights on this special adaptation of A Christmas Carol

Opens Friday, December 7.

This special and unique adaption of the Dickens’ classic is by Rob Zapple, and he shares special insights and the history of this version of A Christmas Carol with you, our patrons. (Article first ran in the

Rob ZappleMeet the Writer

The time is the 1930s

The place is America

The magic is Christmas

Rob Zapple says that when he and two other actors living in Los Angeles in 1980 adapted Charles Dickens’ novel to the stage, they were “not unlike many Dickens characters;” they too were “desperate.”

They were actors struggling to make ends meet, he says, trying to make a success of it, and money was scarce. Ironically, they had produced several plays, including Sean O’Casey’s, The Shadow of a Gunman, directed by Brian Dennehy, that had built them a solid reputation among the “small theatre” community in Los Angeles—a vibrant community involving 90 theaters. Their company had included actors and directors like Ed Harris, Mimi Kennedy, George Wendt, Jonathon Frakes, and Richard Masur. But despite their critical acclaim as innovators, their theatre company was in financial trouble. Almost through a leap of faith, they decided to stage Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but to do so with a twist.

“With no money for sets or costumes our attention turned to a time in America where there was not a lot of money for anything—the Great Depression. The parallels between Victorian London—the backdrop for Dickens’ novel—and 1930s America became very clear. The universal themes of human suffering, societal stratification, the need to help others less fortunate and, of course, the possibility of redemption for a life misused, all rang as true in the 1930s—and now—as they did well over a hundred years ago when Dickens wrote his story,” he said.

“Moving the story to America during the depression, dropping the British accents and the fancy clothing and trappings of London society happened with ease, and, in the first reading, the play seemed natural, as if it had always been an American—or more appropriately—a ‘human” play that really did transcend place and time.  Of course, moving the play to the depression also meant that we could costume the actors from Salvation Army and second-hand clothing stores,” he said, which—along with a minimal set—cut production costs.

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The rest is history. The original staging of this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, which took place at the Theatre Exchange in Los Angeles,  was both a critical and financial success. It ran each December for 11 years. Audiences flocked back to see it year after year. Seats were sold out long in advance. For those associated with the play, it became a Christmas and a family tradition.

The arts critic for the Wilmington Star-News wrote after a December 2002 performance at the Studio Theatre of Thalian Hall: “If you’re anything like the audience members who saw the show last Sunday, you’ll be singing along with the cast during the show’s closing number, Joy to the World. That and a cup of wassail served up by the actors after the show make Theatre Exchange’s A Christmas Carol a crowd-pleaser of the highest holiday degree.”

“You just can’t beat the role (of Scrooge), it runs the whole gamut. He gets to be mean to everybody, and then he gets to be loved by everybody and love everybody back. He gets to talk to Death. He gets to see his own death before him. He gets to make a promise to heaven to be better. I mean, it’s just full of wonderful opportunities for actor who loves to chew the scenery.”

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Meet the Cast

We asked the following cast members, “Why did you want to be in this production of A Christmas Carol.”  Here is  a little more about them, and their answers.  

IMG_4298Talia Cutler (Emma/Ghost of Christmas Pastis 13 years old, and an 8th grader at Kilmer Middle School in Fairfax. She performed as Milo in PPF’s production of “The Phantom Tollbooth” and Scout understudy in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Since before I was born, our family would see “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre. I grew up watching this show, so I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to be a part of an adaptation of it this winter!  My favorite thing about the ghost of Christmas Past is the immense power and magic that she introduces (plus I LOVE the costume).  Hurry up and get your tickets because this is such an original and unique adaptation of the classic tale, and you will definitely want to see it.”

IMG_4313Judi Deatherage (Lisa/First Gentleman/Charwoman) was last seen helping with “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” as a gossiping church lady. The gentlewoman solicitor and charwoman are completely different people, however, both are seeking money during a trying time.  I love the challenge and opportunity to embody the earnestness of each of these women as they weave through Scrooge’s life and ultimate repentance!  This is a nuanced adaptation showcasing the American 1930’s struggle and creativity while keeping the integrity of Dickens’ original story.  It will stretch your imagination, benefiting your own Christmas perspective.”

IMG_4291Brendan Dure (Trevor/Peter) is a 10th grade student at James Madison High School, and has appeared on the PPF stage as Jem in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” ensemble roles in “A Christmas Carol,” and Charlie Bradley in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” ”This interpretation of “A Christmas Carol” sounded interesting and I wanted to be a part of it.  Peter is the second oldest of the Cratchits, just about old enough to start work. I enjoy his character because of how much growth he shows from present to future, going from naive and excited to a more somber character. This is a very fun production that thinks outside the box to tell an amazing story.

IMG_4328Daniel Lavanga (Michael/Bob Cratchit) is thrilled to be in his first production with PPF.  Dan has performed in several productions of “A Christmas Carol” including productions at Prince George’s Little Theater and Little Theater of Alexandra.  I love this story.  It is so perfectly constructed, and it has become so ingrained in our culture that we forget how truly original it was/is.  And it is so easily adapted to the stage, as Mr. Dickens himself showed us.  I love that Bob Cratchit is so utterly devoted to his family.  He would do anything for them, including putting up with Mr. Scrooge’s abuse day in and day out.  PPF’s production will put an interesting new spin on the story that might add something new to a show that has been a holiday standard for 150 years.”

Talia Cutler as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Photo by Rob Cuevas.

Talia Cutler as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Photo by Rob Cuevas.

IMG_4321Caden Mitchell (Jack, Tiny Ebenezer/Tiny Tim and Ignorance) is 11 years old and a 5th grader at Mantua Elementary in Fairfax.  Caden performed as Dill in PPF’s production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  “I love acting, Beth [Director], and PPF. I jump at any chance I get to act, especially at PPF. I also liked that this show has music, so that I would get more singing experience.  Tiny Tim is a really giving boy who wants to help everyone around him, even though he is one that needs help himself, due to his illness and disability. I like that he is center of attention for his family, and how close his family is and how much he loves everyone, and they love him.  This is a fun play for all ages.”

IMG_4324Champe Mitchell (Dafydd/Undertaker) is an 8th grade student at Luther Jackson Middle School. This is his second time on stage at PPF, having worked with Director Beth in an ensemble role To Kill a Mockingbird. He also was in his school’s production of Peter Pan, Jr. (Mr. Darling & Chief Tiger Bamboo) and ensemble roles in PinocchioArabian Nights, and The Jungle Book at Creative Cauldron. In addition to acting, Champe enjoys art, engineering and building, swimming, reading and hiking.

IMG_4327Laura Champe Mitchell (Heather/Mrs. Belle/Second Businessman) was last seen in California Suite at PPF. She performed often in high school, college and community theater years ago, and has recently returned to theater with great delight. “For me, this was an opportunity to act with my children. It’s such a blessing to me that they love theater the way I do, and to be cast in such a classic play. Dickens tale is such literary genius – the story of God told through the anchoring love of Bob Cratchit and his family – Joy! – and the redemptive love of Scrooge – Hope! May we all be thus transformed this season.”

IMG_4344Roxanne Waite (Kathy/Mrs. Cratchit) is a board member and veteran of the PPF company, having played roles on stage, backstage, in costume design, light design, and numerous others. “The story is such a holiday classic, and for good reason. The moral of the importance of putting other people above material trappings, the power of interpersonal relationship, and redemption are timeless. Mrs. Cratchit is the mom of the Cratchit family, including Tiny Tim. They are a very warm and loving family and an utter contrast to Scrooge. I like that she [Mrs. Cratchit] is kind and genuine. This is a familiar story, but with unique elements, so even though you know the plot there are unexpected and interesting bits that you won’t have seen before.”

IMG_4345David Whitehead (John Charles Winthrop, III/Ebenezer Scrooge) is a veteran member of PPF, having played many roles including Walter Burns in Front Page and Antonio Salieri in Amadeus.  “I have performed in “A Christmas Carol” seven times, and I never tire of the story: uplifting and full of Christmas spirit.  This version of it is particularly nice, as it speaks to my Tennessee and Missouri roots, having grown up in St. Louis as a child and later as a college student.  The bluegrass music adds so much.  I love the change that Ebenezer takes from coldness and disdain to compassion and gratitude.  There is no other story like it, and it lifts my spirits just playing it.”

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Meet the rest of the amazing cast of A Christmas Carol.

IMG_4334Tim Brown (Narrator/Musician) has been a member of PPF for two decades. He has worked both on and off the stage and encourages everyone to get involved with PPF. Tim is immensely grateful to Beth for casting him in this role. He is inspired and humbled by the dedication and hard work that his fellow cast members and crew have brought to this production. 

Tim Brown as the Narrator and Caden Mitchell as Tiny Tim. Photo by Rob Cuevas.

Tim Brown as the Narrator and Caden Mitchell as Tiny Tim. Photo by Rob Cuevas.

IMG_4297Erin Casey (Eleanor/Belinda Cratchit) is a 5th grader at St. James Catholic School in Falls Church.  This is her third PPF winter production having previously performed as Shirley in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and as a member of the ensemble in The Phantom Tollbooth.  Erin is also a year-round swimmer and CYO basketball player.  We are so glad Erin came to share her talent again in A Christmas Carol.

IMG_4310Ariana Colligan (Musician/Martha/Fifth Businessman) is happy to be in yet another PPF production! This is her second time doing a version of A Christmas Carol with PPF, and she’s excited to challenge herself by incorporating an instrument that may not be historically accurate to the place and time but is fun to play! Ariana has shared her talents on stage and back stage and is a veteran member of PPF.

IMG_4342Sally Ann Flores (Tara/Mrs. Fezziwig/Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) is happy to be back at PPF where she was last seen as Reverend Hopkins in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  Recent roles include Grempkin in Peter and the Starcatcher (CT), Monsieur D’Arque in Beauty and the Beast (CRT) and ensemble roles in Legally Blond (ZS) and The Addams Family (TCP).  Favorite roles include Diane Lorimer, 42nd Street (SP), Bloody Mary, South Pacific (CT) and Irene Molloy, Hello Dolly (CRT).  

IMG_4302Erika Friel (Olivia/Want) is a 7th grade student from McLean, VA. She is excited to be back with the PPF where she previously appeared in the 2016 production of Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Gladys) and as a baby angel in the 2012 production.  She has also appeared in shows with Theater for Young People at GMU and was featured as a soloist in her school’s production of Godspell. In her spare time she is a cheerleader for Vienna Youth Inc. and enjoys crafting and reading.

IMG_4331Shawn Hubbard (Nolan/Musician/Caroler/Young Ebenezer/Walker Boy) is so excited to be in this production. This is Shawn’s second performance with PPF.  He was last seen lazing around as a lethargarian and number miner in last year’s performance of Phantom Tollbooth.  If Shawn had his way he would live upon the stage, and we couldn’t agree more.  Come again anytime, Shawn!

IMG_4308Evelyn Izdepski (Susie/Fan/Guest) is a freshman at Marshall High School. She is happy to be back at PPF where she was last seen as Beth Bradley in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  She has appeared in other area productions including Cinderella (Cinderella), Lion King Jr. (Adult Nala), Madeline’s Christmas (Regine),  Annie Jr. (Annie), and The Music Man (Ensemble). She most recently appeared in the ensemble of Cosi fan tutte at the Bethesda Summer Music Festival.  When not on stage, Evelyn can usually be found singing, dancing or reading a good book.

IMG_4349Ward Kay (Lou/Mr. Fezziwig/Ghost of Christmas Present) is giddy to be performing in his second PPF production after The Front Page (Policeman).  Other favorite roles include Guys and Dolls (Arvide Abernathy); Camelot (Sir Dinadan); Animal Crackers (John Parker) and No Sex Please, We’re British (Superintendent Paul). Ward is also a director and playwright whose plays have won awards from LTA and NVTA, and are frequently performed at the Capital Fringe Festival. 

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Ward Kay as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Photo by Rob Cuevas.

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IMG_4350Jeanna Lee (Suzette/Second Jostler/Laundress/Poulterer) is thrilled to be making her debut as a thespian in her first production with PPF. A Florida native, she moved to the DMV area in 2012 and is ecstatic to work besides her fellow thespians and PPF members. Jeanna enjoys painting, swimming, and is an avid reader.  We are “ecstatic” you’ve joined us Jeanna!

IMG_4319Sarah Lemon (Jen/Young Belle/Third Businessman) is a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute and this is her debut performance with PPF. She was in fourteen theatre performances during her time at VMI and is grateful to be a part of her father’s favorite Christmas tale.  We are so grateful you came out to audition.  Thanks for sharing your amazing talent with PPF, Sarah!

IMG_4316Nick Manicone (John/Musician/Mr. Belle/Old Joe) is returning for his third PPF production; he supported his daughter Sophia (as Scout) in PPF’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird and was last seen in The Front Page as Diamond Louie. By day, Nick is a lawyer for the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Thanks for sharing your musical and acting talent with PPF, Nick!

IMG_4303Sarah Maurer (Musician) is excited to make her debut with PPF with violin in hand. As a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist musician, Sarah has performed with Church choirs and several local praise and worship bands.  As a child, Sarah appeared in A Christmas Carol as a caroller. She has been playing violin for 13 years, and is grateful now for the opportunity to combine her love of music and story in this delightful interpretation of Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic. 

IMG_4332Kyle McClain (Charlie/Musician/Fred) is new to PPF and is excited to participate in his first show with them! His last shows were many years ago in High School where he did Hairspray (Sketch and various roles) at two different community theaters in the same summer. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and recording music. He is thankful to be a part of this new community to make and grow new friendships!

Tim Brown leads a bluegrass band: (left to right and top to bottom) Nick Manicone, Kyle McClain, Sara Maurer, Thomas Udlock, Ariana Colligan, Tim Brown and Shawn Hubbard. Photo by Rob Cuevas.

Tim Brown leads a bluegrass band: (left to right and top to bottom) Nick Manicone, Kyle McClain, Sarah Maurer, Thomas Udlock, , Tim Brown and Ariana Colligan. Photo by Rob Cuevas.

IMG_4294Steven Palkovitz (Rich/Marley/First Businessman/Husband) is excited to make his PPF debut in A Christmas Carol.  Steve’s community theatre acting credits include The Best Doctor in Town (ST), A Christmas Carol (LTA), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (MCP), Our Town and Mary Poppins (RCP), and Rehearsal for Murder and A Thurber Carnival (VTC).  Recently, Steve participated as an extra in two episodes of House of Cards (television) and Wonder Woman 1984 (movie).

IMG_4317Amanda Ranowsky (Dee/First Jostler/Niece/Caroline) is excited to work once more with the amazingly talented Beth Whitehead after collaborating with her on and offstage in several productions, most recently costuming California Suite last season. Huge thanks to Kathi (Mom), Tommie, Jules, Roxanne, and everyone else who’s pitched in to help with costuming this fabulous group, so Amanda could do double duty as an actor. 

IMG_4320Jaclyn Robertson (Henrietta/Stage Manager) is thrilled to be back stage managing. Her last backstage gig was Stage Managing PPF’s California Suite. Her onstage credits with PPF include Beatrice in Lovers & Executioners, Peggy in The Front Page, and Eileen in Moon Over Buffalo. Special thanks to Mama Beth for trusting her with this job yet again and also to her backstage right hands for making sure the shows goes off each night without (too many) hiccups! 

IMG_4296Chloe Sinder (Lilly/Maid) is thrilled to be making her debut at PPF.  Chloe is a sophomore at Commonwealth Academy, where she has performed in a number of original productions. Chloe has trained with Bill Vander Clute, at Studio Theater and at the Shakespeare Theatre Company.  In addition to her passion for musical theater, Chloe enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

IMG_4307Thomas Udlock (Musician/Young Scrooge/Topper) has performed several times in the past, notably as Tim in Noises Off, Donald in You Can’t Take It With You, Bom and Bem in What Where and an ensemble/supporting member in musicals from Les Miserables to Anything Goes. However, all these were back in his high school days in Colorado, so he is excited to return to the stage in his new home in Virginia now that he’s got all that college learning stuff out of the way. He thanks PPF for the opportunity to make his area debut with them.


Join us!

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