Edmonds Driftwood Players at
Wade James Theatre
950 Main St.
Plays through Sunday, Dec. 18
A boisterous crowd in party-goer mood filled Edmonds’ Wade James Theatre Friday night as The Driftwood Players (The Players) turned down the house lights and a “Mark Press-inspired” musical prelude set the mood for the troupe’s 58th season holiday show – Mr. Scrooge, written by Richard Morris, Dolores Claman and Ted Wood.
Director Kylie McKenzie Soder chose stylized Steampunk for the musical production, describing her vision of Steampunk as, “a retro-futuristic movement, aesthetically based in the past, capitalizing on the technology and culture of the future.”
As such, Steampunk is the perfect vehicle for this story line, which moves back and forth through time effortlessly.
Most recently McKenzie Soder has directed productions for the Whidbey Island Children’s Conservatory for Young Adults (CCYA), which have included Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare and Antigone by Sophocles.
She is a graduate of Cornish College of the Arts and has been involved in Seattle’s theatre community as an actor and director for more than six years. Besides her current triumph on The Players’ boards and CCYA theatre successes, theatre enthusiasts would have seen the effects of McKenzie-Soder’s directing ability in The Fantasticks (Cornish), and also The Boscombe Valley Mystery.
My Edmonds News (MEN) was able to catch McKenzie Soder (KMcS) for a fast-paced interview as she headed out for the Saturday night performance of Mr. Scrooge.
MEN: Kylie, we are so grateful to have a moment of your time. Our readers are very interested in this long anticipated holiday production, so thanks so much.
I understand from the program notes that you were the inspiration behind setting Mr. Scrooge in Steampunk.
KMcS: Yes, I came up with the Steampunk theme.
MEN: Well, congratulations – it’s a brilliant hit!
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MEN: What was the process by which you were selected director of the production?
KMcS: My mentor, stage director Corey McDaniel, has directed for Edmonds Driftwood Players. He forwarded the announcement about the upcoming director interview to me.
I sent in my application, resume and recommendations packet and was called in for an interview. A few weeks later I was notified that I had been selected to direct Mr. Scrooge.
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MEN: The costume design is easily up to Hollywood standards. What is the back story on creation of the costumes?
KMcS : The costumes were a collaboration between Melynda Malley (educated at Asbury University) and myself. I came up with a preliminary idea of what I wanted my cast to look like, and she was in charge of the specifics.
Melynda found a lot of costumes and made several of the pieces. My producer Katie Soule, who had worked with Melynda during another production, selected her.
A lot of the wardrobe came from pieces we found at Goodwill or in the costume shop, which we then altered and “steampunked”. The dresses worn by Isabel (played by Laura McFarlane) were created from two matching bridesmaid dresses from the ’80s. Melynda altered those herself.
I took responsibility for both Scrooge’s clockwork heart and Fred’s mechanical arm because I had very specific ideas of what I wanted.
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MEN: Do you have any theatre idols, or stage celebrities whose career you follow?
KMcS: I don’t really have a stage idol but I admire the work of several actors in Seattle. Sara Porkalob, Andrew McGinn, Jasmine Jean Sim, Christine Marie Brown, just to name a few. These are people I’ve worked with who are not only talented, but amazingly kind and intelligent.
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MEN: In closing, how did you “discover” your passion for the theatre?
KMcS: Before high school, I was debilitatingly introverted. A friend told me that a local community theater was producing Once Upon A Mattress and suggested that I audition. Though I was terrified, I decided to do it, and ended up finding myself in the magic of theater.
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About the production:
The cast of Mr. Scrooge includes Chloe Cook, Sydney Kaser, Stephanie Kroschel, Karsten Lomax, Patrick Lucey-Conklin, Elise McFarland, Laura McFarlane, Jonathan Olson, Griffin Price, Jeff Strom, Kevin Tanner, Margaret West, Randy West and Amelie Whitesell.
With an extravagant set design, created by Doug Lidz, the dialectics of time are set in motion thanks to a view into the inner workings of an enormous Steampunk-inspired clock that overshadowed the Wade James’ stage, but none of the production’s elements.
Used as the backdrop – with a height that nearly reaches the fly system – the round face of the gear-driven clock (with its ingeniously designed back-lit scrim) affords the audience a view back into time, and forward again as the story line moves toward Mr. Scrooge’s realization as to how his life’s choices brought him to a rather bleak and achingly lonely existence.
As the production begins, the clock’s main spring creaks, the balance wheel turns and the notes of the prelude fade away as the characters (dressed in Dickens-esque Steampunk-inspired costumes) move mechanically across the stage with mesmerizing precision.
The whole production — from set design and costumes, to lighting and sound — is stunning in its authenticity. The dazzling musical production included dancing and singing; ghosts appeared, and the clock tower tolled the fate of Mr. Scrooge, surely one of literature’s most famous characters, played by Jeff Strom.
The Driftwood Players took advantage of a seven-week rigorous rehearsal schedule, according to a statement made by Mark Press on the production’s Facebook page. As any critic will attest, a generous rehearsal timeline is essential to the success of community theatre productions.
Although my seat mate and I dabbed tears away during the number “Very Long Ago” in Act One, by the time Mr. Scrooge is being jostled and bounced about the stage by The Ghost of Christmas Past in a rather unseemly wheelbarrow ride while the spirit chants, “back, back, Back! Back…. back!” (most repetitiously in order to let the audience know that The Past is nearing) we – along with the rest of the audience – were laughing appreciatively.
And, of course, by the conclusion of Act Two as Mr. Scrooge sits down to enjoy Christmas dinner with the Cratchits, the audience is cheering.
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As has become customary, My Edmonds News would like to award a “Tony” to the cast member whose efforts seems central to the success of the production. In this vein, Artfully Edmonds selects Jeff Strom. This is Strom’s second appearance on the Wade James stage. He tells us that he appeared in local productions Sylvia, Annie, and Guys & Dolls.
A great sport (with a fine singing voice) Strom was convincing in his irascibility, charming in his guile, and evoked the deepest sympathy as the layers of a regretful life peeled away to reveal the kindest heart. He fell to the floor, he trembled at spirits, his voice quaked and he survived being wheeled around the stage in both wheelbarrow and bed – all to make the point for a cheerier outlook.
Director McKenzie Soder offers what we think is the perfect conclusion as to why Mr. Scrooge fits so nicely for this year’s holiday show by Edmonds Driftwood Players:
“In the Steampunk world…There is no fear, only hope for the future. I’d like to think that we could all use a little optimism and hope as we bring the year 2016 to a close.”
To purchase tickets: www.edmondsdriftwoodplayers.org or (425) 774-9600, option 1.
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Next Edmonds Driftwood Players Event
Tuesday, Dec. 20
— By Emily Hill