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Scrooge TV: A Modern Christmas Carol

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Sensational Season 6Six performances of Scrooge TV:  A Modern Christmas Carol come to the Lab Theater on December 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. and on December 14 and 20 at 2 p.m. Fun for the whole family, this modern version of the beloved Charles Dickens classic was created especially for Laboratory Theater by Laura Lorusso, the 2013 winner of the 24-hour Playwriting Project. Watch as the story you and your family already know is delightfully woven into the setting of a popular TV show. In this section, you will find articles about the play, playwright, director and upcoming production of the show at the Laboratory Theater of Florida (posted in date order from oldest to latest). Individual and season tickets are available on www.brownpapertickets.com by clicking HERE.

 

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‘Scrooge TV’ playwright Laura Lorusso has finger firmly on the pulse of present-day culture and life (12-17-14)

Crumley and Whitney 01Have you ever wondered what might have happened had the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future failed to rehabilitate Ebenezer Scrooge, allowing the old skinflint to continue with his parsimonious, miserly ways? Well, that’s the starting point for Laura Lorusso’s Scrooge TV, now playing at the Laboratory Theater in the downtown Fort Myers River District.

Of course, even knowing that Scrooge TV is a Whitney 01modern adaptation of A Christmas Carol doesn’t particularly help the audience figure out what’s going on much before the play’s denouement. In fact, for much of the show, the audience is left to its own devices to figure out who her characters are, much less why they should care what happens to them.

Okay, it’s true. Charles Dickens could not have Whitney and Frankcreated a more despicable, less lovable persona than Ebenezer Scrooge. He was a stingy, mean sociopath who abhorred “the indolent classes sitting on their indolent asses gulping ale from indolent glasses.” But by providing readers and audiences the opportunity to witness the neglect, abuse and abandonment that created the old miser he later became, Dickens allowed his readers and audience to first sympathize and then empathize with Scrooge leading to cathartic jubilation when Crumley 03he renounces his selfish and cold-hearted ways and resolves to keep the spirit of Christmas in his heart all year round. Unfortunately, Lorusso doesn’t give us any of that – not only with regard to her modern-day Scrooge, Dr. Cramley, but for any of the other unscrupulous characters who populate her story.

Crumley and Marley 01Cramley is a psychotherapist-turned-tabloid-television-show-host in the tradition of Springer, Wilkos and Povich who is willing to drug his patients and exploit their psychological problems in order to gain ratings that will finally allow him to top Dr. Phil. An inveterate haphephobic, he drops patient files, letters and other papers on the Marley 01floor rather than hand them to his surly secretary, Whitney (played by Kendra Price, who Lab Theater audiences will remember from The Vagina Monologues and Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, which was a hit this past summer).  By the time we meet her, Whitney’s disdain for her boss and outrage over his mistreatment of her (which extends to him not even remembering her correct name) has morphed into an all-consuming obsession for revenge that leads her to not only slip laxatives into his coffee, but powerful hallucinogens into his Scotch.

Sophie and Gerry 01Whitney’s co-worker, Frank (played by Mike Dinko, who was last seen in the world premier of The Second Book of Ruth, playing three roles as Ruth’s current or soon-to-be Jewish husbands) knows what’s she’s doing but does nothing to intervene except to urge her half-heartedly to “take it easy on the poor bastard.” Not that Frank has any true moral compass. After all, he builds the sets and helps Crumley scare the Dickens out of his patients on Crumley’s show, Scrooge TV. Which makes Frank a classic enabler, to borrow a term from the good doctor McGraw.

Sophie 01And then there’s Gerry and Sophie, played by Adriel Munoz (who was making his Lab Theater debut) and Stacy Stauffer (who joined Kendra Price in Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays). While not exactly rising to the level of Lyle and Erik Menendez, Gerry and Sophie seem willing to allow Dr. Cramley to abuse their rich uncle in pretty much any way he pleases in order to win back their inheritance. Of course, after enduring a barrage of “For the People” radio and television ads over the years, the audience might be inclined to endorse the John Morganesque uncle’s torture, especially if it involved strapping the bombastic barrister to a chair and Crumley, Gerry and Sophieforcing him to watch endless replays of Billy Fuccillo and Caroline Renfro KIA commercials.

It’s a theatrical axiom that the more neurotic characters are, the more the audience likes them and identifies with them. Flaws give characters somewhere to go. For example, the rich and cold-hearted Edward warms up under Vivian’s influence and becomes her Prince Charming, allowing the Pretty Woman to gain some self-respect and escape her life of prostitution and degradation. But a character arc assumes gradual changes in a character and turning points that lead to Curtain Call 02growth, redemption and rebirth. Whitney, Frank, Gerry and Sophie don’t change and Cramley’s repudiation of his Machiavellian ways is so abrupt that it evokes a sigh rather than the jump-from-your seat fist-pumping reaction that A Christmas Carol and other adaptations characteristically achieve.

Laura 09It would be easy to conclude from the foregoing that Scrooge TV falls short on this score due to some failing or lack of storytelling skills on Lorusso’s part. But Laura is a smart, street-savvy playwright who has her finger firmly on the pulse of present-day culture and life. She withholds the satisfying Pollyannish other-directed, humanistic climax provided by Dickens and subsequent versions and substitutes the likely outcome of what change might look like in the narcissistic world of those who, like Cramley, live their lives in the public eye, craving attention, ratings or “likes” and retweets. For someone like that, true change doesn’t involve a life dedicated to the betterment of mankind and keeping the spirit of Christmas in their heart year round. It merely encompasses shutting down Facebook, turning off Twitter, and going home to re-establish ties with family. And it’s sad that a decision like that seems mundane and ho-hum by today’s blockbuster action-movie standards.

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‘Scrooge TV’ the latest adaptation of classic Charles Dickens novella (12-12-14)

Laura Lorusso 05Scrooge TV  opens tonight at the Laboratory Theater of Florida. It’s a modern version of A Christmas Carol, the classic novella that Charles Dickens wrote in 1843.

The tale was credited with restoring merriment and festivity to the Christmas season in both Britain and America following a lengthy period of sobriety and somberness. “Bah! Humbug!” said Scrooge. And why shouldn’t he? At the time Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol, England and Scrooge TVs Laura Lorusso 1the world did not have Christmas in its heart. Many of the signs and traditions of the holiday were gone – almost forgotten. Plum pudding was virtually unknown, and few employers gave their workers Christmas off. Then Dickens wrote his story.

Laura 04Since its publication on December 17, 1843, A Christmas Carol has never been out of print, and has been adapted countless times to film, stage, opera, and other media. But with the growing disparity between the wealthy and the poor, the parallels between pre-Victorian England and present-day America may have never been clearer or stronger.

Dickens wrote in the wake of government changes to the British welfare system known as the Poor Laws. Prompted by wealthy landowners who Laura 05objected to being taxed in order to subsidize the poor, lawmakers passed amendments that prohibited able-bodied paupers from government assistance except in a workhouse, where conditions were made intentionally harsh and punitive in order to discourage the needy from seeking help. Those who refused often ended up in debtor’s prison, including Charles Dickens’ own father.

This certainly explains why the ghost of seven-year-dead Jacob Marley asks his skinflint Laura 09business partner to acknowledge the plight of those displaced and driven into poverty by the Industrial Revolution, and the correlative obligation of society to provide for them humanely. Failure to do so, Dickens implies, will result in unnamed “doom” for Scrooge and those like him who believe their wealth and status qualifies them to sit in judgment over the poor rather than to assist them.

Some 170 years later, many of the same issues seem to be playing out in American society, where 44% of America’s poor have incomes that are (according to Laura 06The Wall Street Journal) 50% or more below the government’s official poverty line while (according to Credit Suisse Research Institute) the richest 1% of people own nearly half of all of the wealth on the planet and the richest 10% claim 86% of global wealth. Despite the growing disparity, the wealthy and the lawmakers beholding to them talk in mean-spirited terms of “makers and takers,” the “disaster” of providing health care to tens of millions of uninsured, and the need to repeal rather than increase minimum wage enactments.

Laura 08If Congress had its way, there’d be no turkey for the Cratchit family on Christmas day, Bob Cratchit would get a pay cut rather than a much-needed raise, and Tiny Tim would be allowed to die, thereby reducing the excess population rather than being seen at a later date, healthy and able to walk, lending to the classic tome’s touching conclusion.

With this as backstory, it will be intriguing to see what spin Lorusso gives to the classic plotline. All Lab Theater will reveal about Lorusso’s modern adaptation is that it takes place in a TV studio and features an unwitting game show host whose selfish life is examined as the tables are turned on him. To find out “the rest of the story,” you’ll just have to attend a performance of Scrooge TV

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‘Scrooge TV’ opens at Lab Theater this Friday night (12-11-14)

Laura Lorusso 05Don’t miss Scrooge TV, Lab Theater’s snarky and fun story about a selfish executive who gets a taste of his own medicine during the holiday season. Scrooge TV’s zany characters are the latest creations from the fertile imagination of playwright Laura Lorusso, the winner of last year’s 24-hour Playwriting Project. Miss Lorusso is also the author of last season’s Afterlife of the Rich and Famous, which was produced in Naples.

A tongue-in-cheek comedy, Scrooge TV is sure to appeal to adults and teens alike. The show will open at 8:00 p.m. on Friday, December 12, with doors opening at 7:15 for the opening night reception. Other performances are on December 13, 18, 19, 20 at 8 p.m. and matinees on December 14 and 20 at 2 p.m. See above for ticket prices and purchasing information. Seating is limited, so advance ticket purchases are recommended.

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Kendra Price and Dave Yudowitz to star in Lab Theater’s ‘Scrooge TV’ (11-30-14)

A Traditional Wedding 1Coming to Lab Theater in December for seven fun performances is Scrooge TV: A Modern Christmas Carol, a play written especially for the season by last year’s 24-Hour Playwriting Project winner Laura Lorusso and directed by the 2012 24-Hour Playwriting Project winner Carmen Crussard. Starring Kendra Price, this modern and fun version of A Christmas Carol takes place in a TV studio and stars an unwitting game show host whose selfish life is examined as the tables are turned on him.

Price made her Laboratory Theater debut in Joe and Paullast summer’s controversial hit show, Standing on Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays, and is joined by Dave Yudowitz, a veteran of Sanibel’s Schoolhouse Theater and long-time Laboratory Theater actor and Volunteer Coordinator. Some of Yudowitz’s previous performances at Lab Theater include The Interview, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s This Flight Tonight 1Nest, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, Picasso At the Lapine Agile, and The Plague.

Performances will be at the theater, which is located at 1634 Woodford Avenue in the Fort Myers River District. There will be an opening night reception for Scrooge TV starting at 7:15 p.m. Tickets are $12 for students and $22 for adults at the door. The theater also offers Thursday night discounts to seniors and military at $18.50 per ticket.

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Carmen Crussard directs ‘Scrooge TV’ for Laboratory Theater (11-17-14)

Carmen 03Carmen Crussard directs Scrooge TV:  A Modern Christmas Carol. Crussard has previously directed The Second Book of Ruth and served as Assistant Director for Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune. Carmen has also participated in the 24-hour Playwriting Project for the past two years. In addition to directing at Lab Theater, Carmen keeps busy running a youth theater program with City Scenes Theater Co. Other directorial credits include Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr., Wizard of Oz and The Addams Family.

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Laura Lorusso wins Lab Theater’s ‘Second Annual 24-Hour Playwriting Challenge’ (12-08-13)

The Last Sunday 01With a one-act play that featured a cement Bertie Bloomer birthday cake, neurotic delivery man with melting feet, and an apartment resident who just wanted to watch some football on the last Sunday before his life changed forever, playwright Laura Lorusso took top honors at last night’s Second Annual Laboratory Theater 24-Hour Playwriting 2013 Playwrights 4Challenge. Titled The Hall: Last Sunday, the 12 minute 45 second vignette sparkled with snappy dialogue, rib-splitting one liners and even a little song and dance that brought down the house.

Besides Lorusso, playwrights Carmen Crussard, Char Loomis, Taylor Adair Nave and Mike Tomes accepted the Lab Theater’s challenge to write, direct and put on a 10-15 minute play in a scant 24 hours from start to finish. The quintet arrived with Laura 02Sblow up mattresses, toiletries and laptops under arm at 8:00 p.m. Friday night (no Art Walk for them), had until 11 a.m. on Saturday to complete their scripts. They did not get to meet the four actors that Artistic Director Annette Trossbach and Stella Ruiz assigned to them until 1:00 p.m., when the playwrights morphed into directors who had to school, rehearse and help their thespians learn their lines in just seven short hours.

But when the lights came up on the first performance at 8:00 last night, the five playwright/directors and their 20 actors were ready, able and eager to entertain the sold out Lab Theater crowd.

Jamies Song 2Carmen Crussard churned out a play about a sleezeball con artist out to swindle a vacuous aspiring actress looking for publicity shots, but who was outwitted in the end by a teenage friend or family member who absconds with all the money. Taylor Adair Nave produced dark, disturbing comedy noir with a surprise ending about a girl (appropriately portrayed by Kathleen Moye, right) who exacts revenge on some poor One of Us 1boy who embarrasses her in class by drawing attention to the fact that she’s holding the French novels she’s pretending to read upside down. Mike Tomes created an edgy story about a 14-year-old girl with aspirations to become a social worker who melts the heart of a cranky disabled vet with AIDS. Coming Together 01And Char Loomis won the Audience Choice award for a story about a young lover who returns from the French Quarter in New Orleans with the ghost of child attached to him after he leaves a haunted tour before the guide closes the portal to the other side.

Judges Deliberating 2The panel of judges scored each production based on technical, artistic and overall merit. In addition to factors such as creativity, plot coherence, character development and potential for being expanded into a longer piece, each playwright was judged on how well they incorporated the props and prescribed lines they were given as well as the set, which depicted a cordoned-off hallway in a building somewhere in time.

Laura Answers Questions 1Lorusso has been an active member of the local theater community for the past ten years. She has starred with the Naples Players in several shows and toured with a local comedy show, Joey and Maria’s Comedy Italian Wedding. This fall, she wrote and co-directed Afterlife of the Rich and Famous for Let’s Put On a Show Productions in Naples. Although it was her first play, it certainly will not be her last … if the critical acclaim she received from last night’s judges is any indication.

The Last Sunday 02The judges were particularly taken by the melting feet personality trait that she ascribed to her leading character, who suffered from a debilitating anxiety disorder triggered by encounters with children of any age, size or demeanor. “I’ve known some people with anxiety disorders,” she explained to the panel and audience after the performance, “and one said his feet would get really hot, like they were melting.” The description stuck, and Laura employed the visual gag to perfection in her play.

Laboratory Theater Exterior 2 (3)The Laboratory Theater of Florida is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which is dedicated to the promotion of the performing arts, through live performance, education, community outreach, experimentation and the development of ensemble work. The company features ensemble productions, produces classic works, takes artistic risks and features and challenges local performers of various skill levels. Stay up to date with its news and events on Facebook and Twitter @LabTheaterFL.  For more information, please call 239-218-0481. The theater is located at 1634 Woodford Ave. Fort Myers, 33901.

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More on Laura Lorusso from last year’s Let’s Put on a Show Productions’ ‘Afterlife of the Rich and Famous’ (10-15-13)

8caa7960f99984636d951c26bd4f3456Local Naples playwright Laura Lorusso, best known for her work with the Naples Players, debuts her original play Afterlife of The Rich and Famous October 18 through November 2 at the Golden Gate Community Center.

Afterlife of the Rich and Famous is the story of rising star, Alexander Lewis. The young actor had it all: looks, fame, fortune, and love….or so he thought. While on location shooting his latest blockbuster an unfortunate accident, his own, brings Hollywood’s golden boy face to face with a devilishly appealing woman, Devela D’agon. Now, forced into a role he never imagined, as an after-lifer, Alexander must learn how to play by Death’s rules or face entrapment. In a diabolical game where the stakes are a matter of being snatched by the devil or climbing the big stairs to the pearly gates, can Alexander let go of his past and become the man he needs to be in order to outwit the reaper?

87cb5d00ebda86bcad045e34cb9da35c_5chxA convoluted dark comedy that’s not to be missed, Ty Landers stars as Alexander Lewis, along with Karen Anglin as Devela D’Agon, Asia Danielle Johnson as Lucy Heiner, Ellice McCoy as Gracie Marshall, Matthew Striegel as Stephen Dittenger and Ann Megna as Aunt Bertie.

733b37ba4a3f23f186d368dd23e134b4_ye6n_4lt6Afterlife launches Let’s Put on a Show Production’s second season. The company is set to follow Afterlife with As Bees Drown in Honey (January 23-February 8, 2014) and the one (wo)man show, The Lady With All The Answers” (March 13-March 29, 2014).

d4e326975ec1e3ce4c372cd3ed278be4_3p1pLet’s Put On A Show Productions was founded by Scott Lilly and Kevin Moriarity to provide a highly creative environment in which professional artists and artists in training are encouraged and welcomed to broaden their craft through new and established works. It seeks to explore alternative and contemporary playwrights, such as Tom Dudzick (Don’t Talk to the Actors), Douglas Carter Beane (As Bees In Honey Drown and The Little Dog Laughed), and Annie Baker (Circle Mirror Transformation).

“We are very grassroots, and our idea is to bring affordable, contemporary and established pieces to people that may not necessarily go see plays, some folks that may not be exposed to the arts,” Moriarity told naplesnews.com’s Chris Silk last October. “And of course those regular theatergoers, but at a price that they can have dinner, see the show and not spend a lot of money.”

Doors open for LPOAS’s production of Afterlife of the Rich and Famous at 7:30 p.m. and play dates are October 18, 19, 24, 25 and 26, with one matinee show at 2:30 p.m on Sunday, October 27. The last weekend of the show will be Thursday, October 31, Friday, November 1 and Saturday, November. Tickets are $18.00.

Doors open ½ hour before showtime at Golden Gate Community Center, Joan Jean Auditorium  4701 Golden Parkway, GG 34116. For additional information or to make reservations, please call 239-398-9192 or visit www.letputonashowproductions.com.

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