City Stage New West fights urban isolation with communal storytelling

Turn out at the Anvil Centre on Dec. 19 for a free, audience-participation reading of A Christmas Carol. Plus, there's hot spiced wine and free cocoa.

If it’s not Christmas for you until Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, every one,” then you’ll need to put this one on your calendar.

City Stage New West is inviting everyone to turn out at the Anvil Centre on Thursday, Dec. 19 for the holiday edition of its Sips n’ Scripts reading series – featuring Charles’ Dickens A Christmas Carol.

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A press release notes the reading series is a partnership between City Stage New West and the Anvil Centre, designed to help make a dent in the growing levels of urban isolation experienced in the region.

Inspired by Indigenous author Richard Wagamese’s idea to “bring back the living room,” City Stage brings together professional actors and audience participants in an effort to break down barriers between people through communal storytelling.

A Christmas Carol began the experiment last year, and it was so successful that it’s back by popular demand this season.

Audience members of all ages, guided by director Renee Bucciarelli and her team of theatre professionals, can participate by reading roles, making sound effects and theatrically embodying the likes of snowball fights and graveyard scenes.

Audience members can also don costume pieces, sing carols and enjoy seasonal cheer. There’s free cocoa for kids, and adults can purchase themselves a Smoking Bishop – a hot spiced wine loved by Dickens himself – at the cash bar.

“Last year, we weren’t sure this format would actually work,” Bucciarelli said. “But, amazingly, it did so beautifully. Virtual strangers – many who had never done anything like this before – just threw themselves into it.”

Bucciarelli attributes much of the success of the experiment to veteran actor-musician Dave Clothier, who returns as Ebenezer Scrooge.

“At 87 years, with all his experience, including as a grandfather and great-grandfather, Dave knows just how to touch the hearts of all ages,” she said.

Clothier, originally from the U.K., has been making music and theatre in the Vancouver area since 1982.

This year, violinist Cindy Kao will also be part of the action, providing live accompaniment for Fezziwig’s ball and for the Christmas sing-along that follows the reading.

All the fun takes place at Anvil Centre, 777 Columbia St., running from 7 to 9 p.m. It’s free, but register ahead – find the link at www.citystagenewwest.org or www.anvilcentre.com, or call 604-527-4640.

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