What do an American author and a Victorian playwright have in common? They both have the capacity to portray the human spirit through memorable characters.
That, and they’re both featured authors in Hudson Reed Ensemble’s “Once Upon a Christmas.” O. Henry’s and Charles Dickens’ talent, along with Dylan Thomas and Truman Capote, make the group of four writers quintessential artists to celebrate the holidays.
“These are stories that are of the season which are redemptive in nature and sweet,” says Kent Reed, founder of the Hudson Reed Ensemble. “In narrative form, they relate to things about Christmas that we strive for anyway, including fellowship, love and giving and receiving for the right reasons.”
Six actors — Jeanne Walla, Kim Nuzzo, Tom Egan, Sarah Dale Payne, Ralph Sheehan and Reed — will read this series of dramatic Christmas excerpts to honor the spirit of the holiday season and invoke nostalgia.
Many of the readings, including Capote’s “A Christmas Memory” and O. Henry’s “A Chaparral Christmas Gift,” are remembrances and retellings of the innocence of Christmas. Reed hopes that through these readings, the audience can suspend reality for a brief time and experience the same transportation. Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” and Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” will also be read.
This is the first year the Hudson Reed Ensemble is presenting holiday stories. Several years ago, the resident theater company did series of readings at the Pitkin County Library, and they’re basing this presentation off of that format.
Though the actors won’t be in costume like a typical play, Reed says the production is still great for families with older children.
“The material isn’t being presented on a adult level, but on an emotional level and kids can definitely relate.”
During the summers, Hudson Reed hosts the popular Shakespeare in the Park performances, a free production of different Shakespeare plays presented in Galena Plaza.
Even though “Once Upon a Christmas” is only going live once this December, Hudson Reed’s developing partnership with Aspen Public Radio means it will be air throughout the month. Radio station staff will be on site recording the presentation this Sunday to re-broadcast.
“We’re working on an ongoing series which will make these performances accessible for everyone,” he says. That relationship also includes a Feb. 13 recording of “Hay Fever.”
Like many of Hudson Reed Ensemble’s presentations, the aim is to present commonalties through written work — the unifying elements which connect humanity. He wants to make theater accessible, and often the universal themes found in classic theater does this.
“Even though these characters are experiencing Christmas in a different milieu in different locations, they are sharing the commonality of being generous for the right reasons,” Reed says.
And that is the spirit of Christmas.
Once Upon a Christmas
the Hudson Reed Ensemble
Sunday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.
Aspen Community Church, 200 E. Bleeker St.