by Ethan Bjelland
The energy of this Christmas Season at the Commonweal has been heightened by a set of young company members who have joined us onstage for this year’s production of A Christmas Carol.
We had an impressively talented group of area youth audition with us, and from those auditions we were able to assemble two casts of young actors who proved quite adept throughout the entire rehearsal process, and continue to give us thoughtful performances each time they come onstage.
The kids are dealt into two “teams,” which we have designated red and green. Our younger team, the Red Team, consists of Esme Decker of Lanesboro, MN and Kaj SpencerBerg of Decorah, IA. “I learned about all the time and effort that gets put into all this,” Esme said after being involved in our tech rehearsals and preview process. “There are so many people that have to work on a show to make it be a show, and I didn’t know that.” You can see her passion in the way that she engages each night on stage with the other actors, and with her scene partner, Kaj.
Kaj is always an energetic and courageous actor, and always good for a laugh. “I’ve never been backstage at the Commonweal before, and it was funny to see where you guys all go and hang out and stuff when you’re done being onstage for a while,” said Kaj. ”I really like it at the end when we’re in Scrooge’s office and Bob Cratchit comes in late to work, and we all jump. I think it’s really fun acting surprised, and it really shows how we can set the mood.” Kaj just celebrated his 11th birthday during the run of the show, so be sure to wish him a happy belated birthday when you see him!
Our older crew, the Green Team starts off with 11-year old Alida Berg of Lanesboro, MN. “Performing onstage is completely different from sitting in the audience,” she tells us. “Each rehearsal you have to add more and more, and try new things. It’s been a great opportunity.” For most of these actors, this is their professional theatre debut. Alida is a great example of how much these up-and-coming actors have grown throughout this process. “My volume and my presence got better and louder. Each night I tried to do better than I did the night before. I’m really excited to act again!”
Alex Mathison of Harmony, MN was a great leader in each part of the show. He knew all about these long processes as our veteran young actor, having performed as Tiny Tim in Commonweal’s production of A Christmas Carol four years ago. Now he’s 13 years old, and had to be resized for a new crutch. “The people I’m working with this time around have been great,” said Alex, when asked what made this round memorable. He also talked about how much fun it was to perform in our student matinée series, and all four of our kids agreed. “I will always remember performing in front of my whole class,” Said Alex. “It’s awesome how they can see me do something that I usually don’t do. Last time, I was a lot younger than the kids that came to see the show, and now, having my friends in the audience and people that I’ve known… It’s just really cool. I get high fives walking down the hallway at school. It’s just been so much fun to play and perform here.”
Incorporating the young actors meant a lot of trust from the kids and patience from the whole cast. While the kids were in school, the resident company worked through each scene, blocking and problem solving, and then the kids were incorporated into those scenes. This meant some long rehearsals after school or on the weekends. We’re happy to say that the kids rose to every challenge thrown at them, and offered great solutions and new and opportunities for each scene.
A Christmas Carol is now playing at the Commonweal through
Sunday, December 23.