Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dickens Comes to Twain House with Ebeneeza

It's Dickens brought to Hartford, with three ghosts transporting a greed-obsessed main character, who deals in shady mortgages, back to the 1960s - and then to an unvarnished present day, and then to a possible future.

And The Ghost of Hartford Past in this theatrical homage to "A Christmas Carol" is Mark Twain himself.

The Mark Twain House & Museum continues a holiday tradition with a heart, once again welcoming HartBeat Ensemble's free traveling production of Ebeneeza: A Hartford Holiday Carol to the Museum Center. It's an exploration into what hardens a woman's soul -- but as in Dickens' and Twain's work, it's a message delivered with humor.

There will be three free performances: Friday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 pm; Saturday, Dec. 18 at 7:30 pm.; and Sunday, Dec. 19 at 2 pm.

Ebeneeza is a multi-cultural retelling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," and is set in modern-day Hartford and its suburbs. The title character is an elderly woman who has made her fortune in local real estate and mortgage brokering.

The production takes us from Ebeneeza's childhood home on Front Street during the Depression, through the civil upheavals of the 1960s in the city's North End, into the Greater Hartford suburbs of the present -- and finally into one possible future.

This year, the play has been updated to include the grit, the grime, and the humor that 2010 brought to the city and the nation. "It's a wild ride through our common history and current reality," says HartBeat Co-Artistic Director Gregory R. Tate. "HartBeat really enjoys highlighting the humor and deep emotional bonds that make this play a perennial holiday favorite."

Ebeneeza was originally written in 2006, and is re-examined every year to address timely issues. HartBeat ensemble, whose works never fail to please in city parks, schools and public spaces, has taken many of the words and ideas of the play from interviews with residents of the local area. The ensemble believes this is essential to its mission of telling people's stories.

Ebeneeza will also be performed for the public at Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts, The West Indian Social Club, and West Hartford's Playhouse on Park. For more information visit www.hartbeatensemble.org or call (860) 548-9144.

Ebeneeza is written by HartBeat Ensemble and directed by Nora Mathews from original staging by Brian Jennings. The production is made possible by the City of Hartford, The Office of Cultural Affairs, The Greater Hartford Arts Council's United Arts Campaign, the United Way Community Campaign, The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation and the The Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism. Media sponsor is The Hartford Advocate.

The event is one in The Mark Twain House & Museum's continuing series of Mark Twain 2010 Centennial Celebration events . The Hartford Financial Group, Inc., is the Mark Twain House & Museum's Centennial Sponsor.

The mission of HartBeat Ensemble is to create original, professional theater based on stories from our community. Through Mainstage plays, Open-Air performances, and Education programs, HartBeat Ensemble makes theater accessible beyond the barriers of class, race, and gender.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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