Tri-State Theater

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

On Stage Tonight - A Special Version of "Christmas Carol"

Wow, this one snuck up on me (just like the holidays always do)!

It's the one-man version of A Christmas Carol performed by Jack Cirillo. I saw this last Christmas and absolutely adored it - it gets my highest recommendation!

The show runs this weekend only, starting tonight. Here's the story by my pal Angela Henderson-Bentley:
Charles Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his road to redemption is a familiar fixture on area stages at this time of year.

But it's not often it's only performed by one actor playing all of the roles.

But that's exactly how the Marshall University Department of Theatre will present the classic tale this week starring one of its own, faculty member Jack Cirillo.

A Christmas Carol will be presented at 8 p.m. today, Dec. 2 and Friday, Dec. 3, at the Joan C. Edwards Playhouse. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for children 12 and under. Marshall students are admitted free with a valid ID.

The performance is a fundraiser for the Marshall University Theatre Guild. Members of the guild will be singing Christmas carols before each performance.

"It's a great evening for the family to hear one of the greatest classics of our culture and support a great cause," Cirillo said.

The idea of this one-man performance, according to Cirillo, is actually from Dickens himself when he came to America on a book reading tour in the 19th century.

"Dickens fancied himself a theatrical person. He put on quite a show," he said. “The actual presentation is verbatim to what Dickens used. It's a little bit of readers' theatre and a little bit of improvisation. It's a challenge that way."

The play gives Cirillo a chance to perform, which is something he doesn't get to do a lot of these days.

"I love working with my students,” he said. “But I do miss the opportunity to work with peer professionals in theatre on a regular basis.”

After receiving his graduate degree from the University of Washington at Seattle in 1986, Cirillo, whose given name is John Colclough, moved to New York City, where he lived for 14 years. He stayed busy doing theatre, commercials and television work. One of the highlights of his career was doing an episode of the NBC series, The Cosby Mysteries, starring Bill Cosby.

"I bought the TV Guide because my name was in it,” he said. “It was pretty cool."

One of his last major performances was at the Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park where he got the chance to work with Lynn Redgrave.

"That was such an education. A magnificent experience," Cirillo said. "I had my fair share of those high moments. A great 'New York Times' review, great feedback from Stephen Sondheim. But New York has a way of wearing you down."

So when his wife, Penny Watkins, got the opportunity to become the executive director of the Marshall Artist Series, the couple moved to Huntington. They planned to only stay a few years, but after Cirillo was hired at Marshall and the couple had their second child, they ended up staying.

"My focus now is different both personally and professionally," he said. "Professionally I want to continue to work with my students and continue to encourage them to develop companies and product for themselves," Cirillo said. "Personally, I'm all about my kids and seeing where life takes them. For me, it's been a terrific ride."

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