Behind the Scenes with David Sitler and Kenneth De Abrew
Lisa Condit spoke with David Sitler and Kenneth De Abrew about their careers, A Christmas Carol, their characters and more. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: Thank you all for listening today! This is Lisa Condit with Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. I am thrilled to bring you Kenneth De Abrew and David Sitler. They are both playing leading roles, Kenneth in the role of Timothy and David in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, in our upcoming performance of Troy Siebels’ adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Welcome to Behind the Scenes, Ken and David!
David: Thank you! So great to be here.
Kenneth: Thank you so much.
Lisa: Absolutely. You know, I’m thrilled to be talking to you for multiple reasons. One of them is, A Christmas Carol is, of course, one of our favorite traditions here in Worcester and at The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory. I have personally seen every year’s shows, so I have seen the evolution of Troy Siebels’ vision from our very first year in 2008, to now in 2021 after having to treat last year differently with a filmed adaptation. The show is headed back to the mainstage with reimagined casting. Troy always keeps it fresh with some of the effects and gorgeous costumes that make me drool every time. The scenery and the set – I love every piece of this. The music, the choreography, everything. I’m also excited because you both have really great resumes and backgrounds that you’re bringing to these roles. Let’s start with David; you are playing that key role as Ebenezer Scrooge. It’s kind of the role everyone thinks about and the person they love to hate, and then you fall in love with him at the end.
David: That’s what I love about this story, it’s a story of redemption. Because it’s a story of redemption, in the beginning, all gloves are off. But, by the time you’re redeemed, anything is possible. I’ve done this story a number of times, different adaptations in different parts of the country and the first time I saw the theatre, my jaw just dropped. Hats off to the community and everybody who restored this theatre and brought it back to the grandeur when it was a multiplex. Sitting and watching The Nutcracker and being in that audience, I’m so thrilled to get in there Saturday night and put on the finishing touches. I encourage everyone to come see it this year.
Lisa: I’m curious how you got here because you have quite the resume, you have a lot of experience. You alluded to the fact that you’ve been in A Christmas Carol in several different productions, but this one is truly different for a lot of reasons. Ken, how about you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got here.
Kenneth: Yes, absolutely. I was actually a part of a different A Christmas Carol production that I got to do for three years. That was my introduction to the play as an actor. Of course, we all know the story and Scrooge. Scrooge is such a name that is kind of synonymous with A Christmas Carol, you’d say things like, “Don’t be a Scrooge.” I grew up in Sri Lanka, it’s a little island in the Indian Ocean. This other production of A Christmas Carol that I talked about, last year they did a filmed version. I believe Troy, Annie and Steve “Gags” Gagliastro saw that and they were interested in what I did there, and that’s how the conversation started and I auditioned the role.
I’m very happy to be here and to be doing this. I’ve been joking about wanting to be Tiny Tim and dreams do come true!Kenneth De Abrew
David: I’m about to put you on my shoulder.
Lisa: Timothy has a unique role in this adaptation. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it before, but that is part of the magic of the journey we all take along with Scrooge during this version of A Christmas Carol. David, talk to us a little bit about the difference in this production between some of the other productions you’ve been in. You alluded a little bit to your experience, so tell us about how you got here.
David: When COVID hit in March 2020, I was in rehearsal Off-Broadway at the Irish Rep. Everything shut down and it became the self-tape world for actors. I’m a member of the Actors’ Equity, and Kenneth is too, and they had an open call for Equity members to submit a tape which I did. I was called back in July and I was offered the role. Where I’ve been doing it the last four years, they did not do a production last year and they were not doing it this year, so I knew I was kind of a free agent. As far as differences, I think the strongest part of any of the adaptations I’ve ever done, and it’s clear with this one as well, is when they stick with the Dickens’ language. I think 80% of Troy’s script is very similar to most other productions I’ve done, although some were musicals and some were straight [plays.]
What I love about Troy’s adaptation is that he sort of fleshes out some things that were normally in the narration, like the moment when Bob Cratchit is in the office and he discovers a lump of coal. That might be something that’s just a one-liner in a narrative, and here it’s a scene that’s fleshed out.David Sitler
David: It just sets the tone of who everyone is in this world. As far as the music, the 8-part choral singing is gorgeous and the Wurlitzer Organ too. There’s so many aspects of this that I just can’t wait until we get into the theatre to start tech on Sunday.
Lisa: It’s so interesting that you mention that because for people listening to this conversation, Kenneth and David are rehearsing in the Christmas Carol rehearsal hall right next to our offices, which is a treat for us working in the administrative offices.
David: You hear us?
Lisa: We hear you! Every year it’s something that brings joy to us! We love hearing those traditional carols and the voices are beautiful. When you get onto the stage for tech rehearsal and when you start getting the organ incorporated into all of the scenes, it is so magical. I love the attention to detail for every piece of this production. With the dialects, I know Troy does work with all of you and has since the very beginning to make sure it’s as authentic as it could be. Tell me a little bit about your experience with that in this production and preparation.
Kenneth: We’ve had several discussions about the diversity of London and we’re trying to encompass that as much as possible with a diverse group of folks here. As far as dialects go, there are two main dialects. One is closer to Cockney which is the lower-class folks, and RP which is upper-class folks. Outside of that, we are also looking at some European dialects like Scottish, Welsh, Irish, etc. We are also looking at some of the Caribbean dialects, which is something I’m going to give a try at for one of the smaller roles that I’m playing.
The sound of the production, I think, is going to be very unique. It’s not going to be the standard British dialect in A Christmas Carol, but it’s going to be more like a collage.Kenneth De Abrew
Kenneth: Also, we do have a scenario where we see two different time periods. It’s written by Troy and directed by Troy, and there’s going to be some changes based on the different time periods.
David: The fact that the Cratchit family is South Asian would have been historically accurate. There would have been immigrants that would’ve been in these lower paying positions. The fact that Scrooge has hired an immigrant really colors our relationship. It’s not just that he’s annoying but he’s also an immigrant and that really factors in as well. The collaboration of the rehearsal practice has been outstanding. Troy has been so collaborative, he’s allowed me and all the actors to bring some ideas. As director, he has the final say but he allows us to throw our things into the pot and see what kind of wonderful soup we can make. It’s really thrilling.
Lisa: I’m very much looking forward to seeing what the soup is like this year.
David: It’s a little spicy!
Lisa: It’s funny because there’s sense of humor that is really present in the characters. You mentioned that scene from that scene in the counting-house with the lump of coal and Bob putting another lump into the wood stove. I think that’s one of the scenes that really gives people an uncomfortable but familiar chuckle. There is a sense of humor in the writing and the acting that really does keep this production very fresh. There are many serious parts to redemption, right? You have to, first of all, recognize where you’ve gone wrong and that’s not always a fun business. Talk to me a little bit about how you use that sense of humor and lightness into what could otherwise be interpreted as a very dark and serious production.
David: The bottom line, it is a ghost story. Dickens wrote it as a ghost story, so there is those elements. For me, in fleshing out this character over the years, some years there are more humor and some years there is more heart and it’s about finding balance a little bit. Some of the laughter that comes from the audience is sort of uncomfortable. When Scrooge says, “If they’d like to die, they’d better do it and decrease the surplus population,” people are kind of like, “Did he really just say that?” But, there’s definitely a humor in it. It’s delightful and great fun. Everybody in this company is bringing their A-game and every part is fleshed out. A lot of the humor comes in that, in who they are and the relationships.
Lisa: Again, I’ve been talking with David Sitler and Kenneth De Abrew. Kenneth plays the role of Timothy and David plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge! Get your tickets today at TheHanoverTheatre.org or contact 877.571.SHOW (7469) for more information.