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Shakespeare & Beyond

What's onstage at Shakespeare theaters in December

This month, Shakespeare theaters across the country are getting ready for the holidays with stories of Scrooge-i-ness defeated. Even Malvolio learns a lesson! Check out our round-up of performances in December.

Through December 31, Alabama Shakespeare Festival presents It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, by Joe Landry. This twist on a Christmas classic transports guests to the 1940s — not long after the movie takes place — where they’re immersed in a Rockefeller Center-inspired radio broadcast studio. There, the live studio audience will watch the transformative storytelling of five characters as they bring the story of It’s a Wonderful Life to fruition, complete with Foley sound effects, singing advertisements and flashing “applause” signs. Director Kate Bergstrom says that at the heart of this story is community: “This is a great American story about what it means to take care of one another… The value of being able to give each other strength is worth more than all the money in the universe.” Sound designer Michael Costagliola enhances the immersive experience with bells, whistles, and the use of Foley sound effects. Just like the radio dramas of the time, audiences will watch as the actors onstage create a symphony of sounds with the use of objects — from hammers and glass to glockenspiels and wind machines.

A Christmas Carol returns to the Atlanta Shakespeare Company’s Shakespeare Tavern Playhouse through December 23.

Gregory Burgess in A Christmas Carol, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company. Photo: Jesús Lopez.

This year, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company presents a brand-new adaptation of A Christmas Carol, adapted by by historian and company member Laura Rocklyn. “Dickens’ Christmas Carol is one of those transcendent stories that is just as captivating in our modern world as it was to the 19th century audience for whom it was written,” says Rocklyn. “While working with Dickens’ original Christmas Carol text and with Dickens’ account of visiting Baltimore in his American Notes, I kept an eye to highlighting the holiday magic that audiences expect, while keeping the mysterious, darker undercurrents that give Dickens’ story its enduring power.”

The company’s adaptation is set in Victorian Baltimore, a time when the city is one of the largest urban centers in the country. Company Member Gregory Burgess returns for the eighth time as Ebenezer Scrooge, the miserly Baltimore businessman who must battle his ghostly past in an incredible journey from a lifetime of greed to a hope of redemption. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s A Christmas Carol is onstage through December 23.

The cast of “Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some)” at the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company.

Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s holiday smash hit Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!) is back again for another season of holiday hilarity! What begins as another annual production of A Christmas Carol soon devolves into a slightly irreverent look at all of our favorite “Beloved Holiday Classics” including pop culture favorites like It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and more! Add in topical references that always keep this annual tradition fresh and fun as we send up everything from Dickens to Dr. Seuss in an evening of high octane jollity and frivolity. Playing through December 31.

Catch two Christmas shows at Annapolis’s Classic Theatre for MarylandWhite Christmas and A Christmas Carolboth onstage through December 24.

Eric Hissom as Prospero and Nate Dendy as Ariel in “The Tempest” at Round House Theatre, in collaboration with Folger Theatre. Photo: Scott Suchman.

Aaron Posner and Teller’s The Tempestproduced by Round House Theatre in collaboration with Folger Theatre, has been extended through January 15. The Washington Post calls it “exhilarating” and “full of sensory richness and delight.”

Andrew Polec as The Grinch in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, 2021. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

Scrooges and Grinches learn their lessons this month at The Old Globe. The Grinch ventures down off Mount Crumpet again in the theater’s beloved annual production of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, onstage through December 31. Plus, San Diego has another show in its Christmas stocking with Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show, a fast, funny, and highly theatrical reimagining of one of the most beloved holiday stories ever told. All the traditional elements of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol are intact—including the iconic ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future—but with a comic local twist. Audiences of all ages will cheer Ebenezer Scrooge’s rediscovery of the Christmas spirit in this riotous Dickens mash-up filled with music and laughter—all set in “wintery” San Diego.

Twelfth Night takes the stage at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey December 7 through January 1.

Brent Hinkley, John Tufts, Safiya Fredericks, Mark Bedard in It’s Christmas, Carol! at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Photo: Jenny Graham.

It’s Christmas, Carol!, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s slightly unhinged, fully irreverent, song-skewered comedy returns for a second holiday spectacular. On Christmas Eve, three ghosts take affluent society woman Carol Scroogenhouse through time and space to reckon with her views on love, wealth, and holiday cheer. Whisked to a Shakespearean theater, a prehistoric holiday celebration, and a Zombie future, will Carol find her soul with the help of these apparitions? Also onstage this season: Oregon Cabaret Theatre present’s Irving Berlin’s White Christmas through January 1, and the festival’s groundbreaking 10-episode transmedia series The Cymbeline Project is available to stream on-demand through December 31.

Hari Nef as Jimmy and Michael Shannon as Father Michael in ‘Des Moines,’ by Dennis Johnson, at Theatre for a New Audience, directed by Arin Arbus. Photo: Hollis King.

Through January 1, Theatre for a New Audience presents the New York premiere of Denis Johnson’s Des Moines, directed by Arin Arbus. In a seedy apartment on the edge of Des Moines, an unlikely assortment of people come together for an impromptu party that takes them, by the evening’s end, on a dam-bursting ride down a stream-of-consciousness deluge. Downing depth chargers and singing karaoke, they struggle with the strange and unholy trinity of life, death, and sex in this work filled with dark humor and mystery. “What I write about,” Johnson observed, “Is the dilemma of living in a fallen world and asking why it is like this if there’s supposed to be a God.” The cast includes Johanna Day, Arliss Howard, Hari Nef, Michael Shannon, and Heather Alicia Simms.

The Holiday Family Faire at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is back! On December 10, the beautiful grounds of Theatricum transform into an outdoor winter wonderland with an artisan holiday marketplace, photos with Santa, festive food and drink, caroling and singing madrigals, aerialist Lexi Pearl, and more. Don’t miss the special performance of Harry Nilsson’s The Point, with Kiefo Nilsson, Kate Micucci, and a 14-piece live band.

Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Atlanta Shakespeare Company, Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Classic Theatre for Maryland, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, Theatre for a New Audience, and Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum are members of the Folger’s Theater Partnership Program.