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PMA professor pens new holiday tradition

By: Julian Robison '20,  Department of Performing and Media Arts
December 7, 2017

When Michael Barakiva, artistic director of Ithaca’s Hangar Theatre, decided to bring Charles Dickens’ classic novella A Christmas Carol to the stage, he turned to Aoise Stratford.

While numerous stage adaptations exist, Barakiva wanted a version that hit all the familiar beats of the holiday favorite while being relevant to the Ithaca community and suited for the Hangar’s thrust stage. Stratford, a visiting assistant professor in Cornell’s Department of Performing and Media Arts (PMA), accepted the challenge of adapting Dickens’ beloved tale, due in part to fond memories of her English father reading her the story when she was a child.

“This particular story is interested in values of compassion and community engagement that seem particularly important,” said Stratford. “I never thought I would adapt it. It never occurred to me that we might need yet another Christmas Carol, but when Michael asked me I was surprised by how excited I was about writing this piece for this particular time and place.”

According to a Hangar Theatre press release, managing director Josh Friedman hopes that the show will become an annual tradition and a favorite among both locals and tourists. Stratford concurs, hoping to add A Christmas Carol to other Ithaca holiday staples, such as Ithaca Ballet’s long-running Nutcracker and Cherry Arts’ The Snow Queen, for which Stratford served as dramaturg when it premiered last year.

Stratford’s version of A Christmas Carol differs from previous adaptations in its approach to storytelling. Other playwrights have focused on narration to capture Dickens’ authorial commentary, but Stratford worked to avoid this convention, favoring showing rather than telling. Barakiva and Stratford also agreed that their staging should increase diversity both in the text and on stage.

“I wanted more visibility for the labor of women and children—I'm a feminist after all,” said Stratford. “For me, Scrooge's journey is not one of religious conversion; it is a journey from isolation to community, so the play's themes and questions invite a sense of inclusivity that seems of timely importance to me.”

Stratford, a playwright and dramaturg whose work has received over 100 productions worldwide, previously collaborated with the Hangar when she served as the new play development dramaturg for their summer program in 2016.

A Christmas Carol runs December 10–24 at the Hangar Theatre. Tickets are available online. The Hangar Theatre is located at 801 Taughannock Blvd. in Ithaca. 

Julian Robison '20 is a communications assistant for the Department of Performing and Media Arts.

Aoise Stratford

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