By Jordan Ford, Gainesville Theatre Alliance
At the age of 55, world famous author Charles Dickens toured America delivering readings of his works to packed theatres across the Northeast. Acting out passages from his most popular works, including David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Pickwick Papers, Dickens charmed American audiences making his tour not only a financial success, but a much talked about event.
The character and wit of this colossus of the English-speaking literary world will be evident when he is resurrected by actor James Ridge in his upcoming one-man show, Dickens in America, which performs next week with the Gainesville Theatre Alliance on stages on the Oconee and Dahlonega campuses, and at GTA-SouthernStage in the new Buford Community Center (2200 Buford Hwy.,Buford).
Audiences for this one-man tour-de-force will feel as though they are part of Mr. Dickens’ final tour of America in 1868, where the author charmed audiences with extemporaneous discussion and readings from his famous works. The play was written by playwright and actor James DeVita, whom GTA-SouthernStage patrons will recognize from In Acting Shakespeare last spring, an autobiographical account of his hard-fought transition from New York longshoreman to classical actor.
Ridge has been a collaborator with DeVita at the America Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI, for 17 seasons, and have worked with Dickens director Michael Wright for two other one-actor shows.
“There was a tremendous amount of history and trust innate to the process of creating the Dickens show,” Ridge shared. “Our history with each other meant that there was a fair amount of short-cuts available in communication, and the trust we have in each other allowed us to take greater risks as we re-approached the material several years after the original production.”
Having performed three one-actor shows, Ridge says he’s discovered that on a stage devoid of other actors, the audience becomes his scene partner, adding, “part of my job at the beginning of the performance is to suss out this particular audience on this particular night and to forge a relationship that usually happens (within a cast) over the course of weeks in rehearsal. I enjoy the immediacy and spontaneity in this discovery process.”
In addition to his 17 seasons with the American Players Theatre, Ridge has performed at Milwaukee Repertory, Madison Repertory, Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, and recently played Scrooge this holiday season in his wife’s (Colleen Madden) adaptation of The Christmas Carol for Children’s Theatre Madison.
Ridge has performed with many of the professional theatres of Wisconsin including Milwaukee Repertory, Madison Repertory, and Milwaukee Chamber Theatre; as well as narrating with Madison Symphony Orchestra, Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, and Con Vivo! Mr. Ridge has studied and choreographed stage violence for over 25 years and is a gardening enthusiast and hopeful watercolorist, looking forward to a taste of Georgia spring weather, which doesn’t typically arrive in Spring Green until May.
Ticket prices for the production, which is general admission, are $10 for adults and seniors, and $5 for students (of any age) for Buford performances; all campus performances are $5. Patrons can select and purchase seats on the website, www.gainesvilleTHEATREalliance.org, or by calling the GTA Box Office at 678-717-3624, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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