WAKEFIELD – This Christmas, the Contemporary Theater Company is presenting a newly adapted version of the original O. Henry short story, “The Gift of the Magi.”
South Kingstown native Spencer Curry adapted the show for the CTC.
Curry has acted in a number of shows at CTC and wrote a script for the theater’s 24-hour play festival last year.
While CTC has performed adaptations of “The Gift of the Magi” for the past two years, Curry said he was asked to write an adaptation this year and is the first local person to do so.
“The process started last Christmas when I saw the show and I was asked to do it for this year,” he said. “I spent a period of time thinking about how I exactly I wanted to tell the story. I knew I didn’t want to tell it in the same way, in the straight forward adaptation, like was done in the previous two [shows], I wanted to make it more complicated, which presented some challenges trying just not to make it all plot all the time.”
“The Gift of the Magi” traditionally tells the story of a married couple and how they deal with the challenge of buying secret Christmas gifts for each other with very little money.
Curry has adapted the show to include three couples: a teenage couple, a middle-age couple and an elderly couple.
“The story and the previous two adaptations focused on one couple and had more characters involved in the whole crux of their confused present misgivings,” he said. “The big thing is that it’s now three couples.”
Curry said the elderly couple is based on the sole couple, Jim Dillingham Young and his wife Della, from the original story.
Curry brought his draft to Christopher Simpson, CTC’s artistic director, in September. He and Simpson modified the first draft, and later the second draft, and the third draft is what CTC is currently rehearsing.
“The third draft is basically what’s on stage,” Curry said. “Though I’m sure I could have re-drafted it and rewritten it many, many times. From the creative end, it helped to throw ideas off of someone and know what things to emphasize and know what things are coming across.”
Curry was present for a cold reading of his script, during which he said he was “terrified.”
He said he recently moved, so he hasn’t been present for rehearsals, but was planning to attend a few before the show opens Nov. 29.
“I’m very excited and very nervous, because you sort of give up control completely,” Curry said of his production being staged. “It’s weird sitting in the audience, and being from South Kingstown, I know some of the people who come to see the shows so I’m like, ‘Oh it’s you right there sitting next to me and you’ve come to see this.’ I feel like there is some pressure attached but I’m very excited.”
Curry added that Simpson is a “fantastic” director so he’s confident that the show will be a success.
“I feel like I’ve put forth a pretty good script, it’s funny if nothing else, and there’s good people in it, hopefully with some things to think about along the way,” he said. “I tried to make it the kind of play where people will go and see it and enjoy being there and enjoy watching it and they won’t struggle to figure out what was going on.”
Curry said he likes shows that include a communal aspect with the audience and has tried to incorporate that into his adaptation.
“I always looked forward going to it, even when I wasn’t a part of it, and even more so this year for me,” he said. “I wrote it for people to come and enjoy it. I don’t like seeing shows that seem to not have the audience in mind at all, that sort of exist separately from the people who are watching it. I like the community aspect of theater … I get my satisfaction and validation from audiences and audience laughs. I enjoy the connection that’s made there and I would like people to be able to come and connect to the theater.”
Artistic Director Christopher Simpson, who is also a native of South Kingstown, said the theater has presented a Christmas show every year of its five-year history, and agreed that Curry’s production is fun.
“Not that putting on a Christmas show would be anything but fun, but this adds fun on top of that,” he said. “[Curry has done an outstanding job, we’re very glad we went with him.”
He said the eight actors, five of whom are from South Kingstown, in the production have been rehearsing Curry’s adaptation of “The Gift of the Magi” for one-and-a-half months.
The show stars Sami Avigdor, Christine Cauchon, Amelia Giles, Charlie Santos, and Brynne Sawyer, all of South Kingstown, as well as Brad Kirton of Coventry, Terry Simpson of Providence, and Valerie Tarantino of Jamestown.
“It’s always Christmas here pretty early,” he said.
Simpson said the show is “everything that a couple or family is looking for” during the holidays.
“It’s relevant, contemporary, it relates to Wakefield,” he said. “It’s slightly tongue in cheek, it gives the Christmas vibe without undermining the whole thing.”
Simpson said the show is family-friendly and realistic.
“It feels like how our real Christmas is in 2013,” he said.
Christine Cauchon, who plays Ebigail in “The Gift of the Magi,” said the show is “really fun.”
“I feel like we’re bringing Christmas to the audience instead of them watching us have Christmas on stage,” she said.
She said the show would really get audiences in the holiday spirit.
“The best thing about a Christmas show is that it doesn’t matter what it’s about really, you just feel so good and you leave feeling happy and uplifted,” she said. “That’s how Christmas should feel.”
If you go
“The Gift of the Magi” opens Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main St., Wakefield. Every performance comes complete with cookies, carols and cocoa. Shows are Nov. 29, Nov. 30, Dec. 6, 7, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 22 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets are $20 for Friday and Saturday, $15 for Sunday, pay-what-you-can Thursday ($15 in advance). For tickets or info, call 218-0282 or visit www.thecontemporarytheater.com .