Foundation grant goes to ‘Christmas Carol’

FAIRMONT – Martin County Area Foundation has stepped up to underwrite the $25 fee for all participants in the upcoming workshop and performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Fairmont Opera House.

Jean Burkhardt, chair of the foundation, saw the article in Tuesday’s Sentinel about the Opera House procuring the expertise of Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre to conduct a five-day workshop, culminating in the performance of the Charles Dickens’ holiday classic. It will be the first time Prairie Fire is opening its production to adults, not just children.

The foundation had a board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, and Burkhardt, an avid fan of Prairie Fire’s productions, added the Opera House grant as a special agenda item for the meeting.

In an email to Kathi Peterson, Opera House director, Burkhardt wrote: “The Martin County Area Foundation approved a grant that we hope will allow you to waive the fee for any person who wants to participate in the Prairie Fire theater production next week. We are familiar with Prairie Fire and their ability to take raw talent on Monday and turn them into singers, dancers and actors by Friday!”

Burkhardt is well acquainted with Prairie Fire’s frequent summer workshops through Martin County West’s Community Education program. Several of her family members participated in the workshops when they were children, and now, as adults, they can still sing the songs they learned.

The productions “are really fun to watch,” she said. “It’s not the Guthrie Theatre, but it is real community theater.”

While the foundation’s grant eliminates any financial burden on participants, Burkhardt would like to see the effort go further.

“We’re hoping that others will pick up the spirit of the season to underwrite some of the tickets,” she said. “It would be wonderful if every kid that wants to see the performance can get in free.”

More than 40 roles will be cast at registration and tryouts, at 5:15 p.m. Monday at the Opera House. Tryouts will last two hours, and participants must stay the entire time. People selected for certain roles will begin rehearsals immediately after casting is complete.

Rehearsals will be held for four hours and 15 minutes, with a meal break, at 4:30 p.m. or 5:15 p.m., depending on the work schedules of the adult participants, through Dec. 6. Performances will be held at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 7.

Because adults are being allowed to participate, Peterson hopes that families will join the cast as a kickoff to their holiday season. Roles to be filled include speaking and non-speaking and singing and non-singing roles. Two professionals from Prairie Fire will lead the workshop and take part in the performances.