GUTHRIE — As the holidays near, many will mark the beginning of the season with a trip to the Pollard Theatre's production of “A Territorial Christmas Carol.”
The production is based on Charles Dicken's classic Scrooge story, but set around the time of the 1889 Land Run. Instead of London, the story takes place in Oklahoma Territory's Guthrie.
Since 1987, the only time the theater didn't do a production of “A Territorial Christmas Carol” was in 1990, when “Gifts of the Magi,” a play based on the O. Henry short story, was done instead.
A 1990 review in The Oklahoman summed up the production like this:
“Perhaps ‘The Gifts of the Magi' may seem like a present to some and a lump of coal in the stocking to others.”
Following the less-than-enthusiastic reception of the first and only deviation from their now-traditional holiday repertoire, the company decided to go back to “A Territorial Christmas Carol.” They haven't missed one since.
“It's our golden goose that carries the rest of the season,” artistic director and resident company member W. Jerome Stevenson said. Shows are sold out throughout its monthlong run, and school groups travel in from all over to see matinee productions.
From Broadway to Harrison Avenue
George Pollard first opened a Vaudeville show in the one-time furniture store building off Harrison Avenue in downtown Guthrie in 1919. The building later served as movie theater and was renovated for theatrical use in 1986. Much of the interior refurbishing on the theater was done by Guthrie High School students. Carpentry classes tore out the old stage and bathrooms backstage and built new walls and a stage and proscenium arch.
The Pollard Theatre's premier production was the musical “Guys and Dolls” in October 1987. A three-piece band provided the musical accompaniment for the production with a digital piano, synthesizer and percussion. The first season ran through August 1988 and featured nine different shows.
Today, the range of shows at the Pollard varies from shtick-filled comedies such as “The 39 Steps” to child-friendly shows to envelope-pushing musicals such as “Rent.”
That spirit of using what's at hand and making it work is still a strong part of the Pollard's credo. It's not unusual to see a union actor in a role at the Pollard, but more likely are actors cast from the local theater community and nearby colleges and universities, production manager and frequent Pollard actor Timothy Stewart said.
A large, extended family
The Pollard revolves around its five-member resident company that includes Stevenson and Stewart, and the talent of outside artists.
“We have to find a way to tell the story, but tell it our way, all while doing it within a set budget,” Stewart said.