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Gaslight Theatre hosts 'A Christmas Carol' for fall show

By Jessica Rodrigo
Sept. 26, 2012 at 4:26 a.m.
Updated Nov. 3, 2012 at 6:03 a.m.

During the November 2006 show, "A New Miracle On 34th Street," Wes Neskora, second, from left, made his debut at the Gaslight Theatre in Shiner. He is the director of "A Christmas Carol," which is the theater's fall production beginning in Nov. 16. Appearing on stage are, from left,  David Leist, Neskora, Anne Rowbotham and  Michelle Thompson (seated).

This year, Shiner will bring in the holiday spirit earlier than usual. The Gaslight Theatre will bring a holiday-themed performance to the fall production.

The Gaslight Theatre hosts three productions each year in spring, summer and fall, with 10 performances each. During the span of each season the productions will last about three months from auditions to the final curtain call.

In 2006, the Gaslight Theatre hosted its most recent holiday classic with a production of "A New Miracle On 34th Street." The then-18-year-old Wes Neskora debuted as an adult actor in the play with the role of the doctor.

As fate would have it, Neskora, now 24, is making his way back to the Gaslight Theatre with another debut, but this time as the director of "A Christmas Carol."

Josh Kaspar, a member of the board and volunteer with the Gaslight, started working with Neskora in 2007. She also served as his theater mentor and was one of the first people to show support of bringing the holiday spirit back to the theater.

Holiday favorite

In September, the crew at the Gaslight, led by Neskora, hosted auditions for the fall production, where a slew of actors vied for the leading role of Ebenezer Scrooge.

"A Christmas Carol" will be his 11th play and his first play to direct, something he has been thinking about since he started getting serious about theater.

For the past few years, while Neskora was attending nursing classes, he continued to work closely with Kaspar bouncing ideas around for plays he could direct in the future. She felt some of his ideas were too dramatic for the family audiences, including "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," until he mentioned an interest in "A Christmas Carol."

"Ever since I was a little boy, I loved the story, watching the movie and reading the book," Neskora said.

As he grew up, he said, it became his favorite Christmas story and one of his all-time favorite stories.

Between working as a full-time nurse at Schulenburg Regency Nursing Home, filling the night shift hours and preparing for his first directing experience, Neskora didn't have time to write his own version of the holiday classic. He researched many of the different versions of "A Christmas Carol," and finally decided on a version adapted by Michael Wilson who was a director at Houston's Alley Theater. With the help of special lighting effects, Neskora hopes to build the various scenes without physically building them.

"I'm hoping that my audience will be able to access their imagination just a little bit," he said. "I'll be using more lighting to kind of build a pantomime effect."

In contrast to the Gaslight Theatre's summer production of "Treasure Island," where there were only a few set changes during the scenes, Neskora will be creating what he describes as a minimalist set. The lighting will be crucial to his production as it will dictate the moods of the characters and scene.

"It's going to be very avant-garde for this theater," he said. "I'm really excited to see how the community responds to it."

The theater's cast of volunteers includes experienced directors and actors, ranging from 6- to 80-year-olds. Kaspar said the seasoned and dedicated volunteers have given the Gaslight the loyal patrons that make up the audience for each production.

"They come back over and over and over again," Kaspar said. "They like the feel of the theater itself, too."

The 140-seat theater went through a major facelift since the original structure was built in 1895. To maintain its historical integrity, the building kept some of its key components including wood from the original stage that frames a sketch of the Gaslight Theatre that sits on display in the theater's lobby.

Each show includes a meal catered by Werner's of Shiner. The two have worked together on a number of productions and continue to work closely during production seasons. The food is included in the ticket price and offers a hearty meal served buffet-style before the curtains rise.

The Gaslight Theatre has between 500 and 600 season ticket holders and shows often sell out. Reservations are strongly encouraged.

Kaspar said the bar is set high for the theater, so guests can expect a good show.

"We always try to do top-notch, family-oriented theater."



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