A Christmas Carol
Director: Willo Hausman
Being a director who is smitten with ghosts and monsters I was immediately drawn to taking on the job of directing a theatrical version of Charles Dickens’ haunting tale. When I think of A Christmas Carol I go immediately to the world that the author so clearly created in this classic story. None of the schmaltzy over-bright happy-go-lucky stuff that is so often presented in this traditional holiday fare.
So the first rule of thumb in taking on this endeavor, was that I would be allowed free rein to stick to the original story with all it’s strange and ominous intent. The elements that make this novel intriguing and caused its incredible success depict frightening ghosts (four of them to be precise), depressing poverty and illness, the permanence of death and a central character that is an incredibly mean-spirited man, living his life in miserly bitterness. It is only at the very end that Scrooge is redeemed and if we have gone through this truly dark journey alongside him, experiencing all the nightmares that he does, then we too will rejoice in his enlightenment, as well as our own.
I first pitched the idea of putting up A Christmas Carol to Steve Coleman, The Throckmorton Theater’s fabulously gifted set designer. After realizing that we were kindred artistic spirits and connected creatively in numerous ways, the notion of putting up this play burned that much brighter in my mind. I felt even more driven to direct this piece on that particular stage, surrounded by such appropriate ambiance. There is a very old-fashioned charm to this space (it began as a cabaret in the 1920s) and it really rang true for the vision I had in mind for this production. This inspiration was fueled even further after reading a certain version of the script, written in England (by Charles Ludlam) and true to the original tale; shadowy, mysterious, witty and finally, upbeat.
As Scrooge enters the realm of his memories, confronts the truth of his present and imagines a future without hope, we learn what truly matters; truth, kindness and heart. What better way to impart lessons then with spooky apparitions, intense imagery, haunting realizations, rich dialogue and in the end, utter spectacular joy? Dickens does it best with his original intent, just as the fairy tales of old were wont to do. With this production we planned to stick as close as possible to the real message within the authors words and use his inventive tactics to present them.
We ended up with a terrifically twisted and authentic set (which ultimately went through 18 shifts during the show, carried out primarily by the performers themselves); a talented cast of 25 (aged 7-77), consisting of both professionals and amateurs; old-fashioned stage trickery (we used black-lights and human-made sounds to announce the arrival of Marley’s ghost); new-fangled elements (9 fantastic projections depicting Scrooge’s memories and ghostly travels, filmed by the masterful Mark Bowen) and mesmerizing live sound fx (Steve Kirk, our composer, designed an incredible cinematic score, which underlined the action and added to the shadowy mood). We also mixed in a few modern day splashes via our fantastic costume designer, Morganne Newson, who brought some steam-punk hues to her slate of Victorian clothing and then topped it all off with fantastically unique looks created by Maya Lopez and Leonie Meissner, our hair and make-up designers, who worked their magic on our diverse set of characters. Many of the actors played up to three roles each and needed to change looks fairly rapidly. After the initial opening night jitters, the play acquired a great rhythm and the audience (including Robin Williams) laughed and appeared in awe at all the right places. Happily, I even heard reports of some folk being rather frightened by the eerie specters and mesmerizing illuminations.
Currently in the works are a grand scale version of FRANKENSTEIN, a theatrical trilogy of GRIMM and a play based on the intriguing life of my mother, actress Diane Varsi. In active development are two feature films: CLARE, a murder mystery revolving around a clan of modern-day clan witches living in the midst of a bustling metropolis (screenplay by Maria Bernhard) and AMONG THE WONDERFUL (based on a novel by Stacy Carlson); a vintage circus tale set at Barnum’s NYC museum circa 1842 with a giantess and a taxidermist at the center of the mix. Also on the slate are a sitcom THE VIBE (written by Jon Mosher), an Edward Gorey based film, a Buster Keaton bio-movie and a documentary film about mental illness.
Willo Hausman Bio
After graduating NYU with a BFA in acting, Willo was the Founding Artistic Director of NRG, a theatre company in NYC which primarily employed a film-based crew and performed verite’ style throughout Manhattan. NRGS’ most notable endeavor, THE HOBBYWOOD CANTEEN, was performed on a soundstage at Culver Studios in LA where it received much kudos and notoriety. While attending he Tisch School at NYU Willo was also honored with the opportunity to perform in a few David Mamet movies where she honed her skills as an actor. Willo enriched her film knowledge by continuing training on many high-powered film sets, working in a multitude of capacities, including NOBODY’S FOOL (Stand-in/Perdiem-Envelope-Stuffer and Art Department Production Assistant), FAMILY THING (Set PA and Casting Assistant), PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT (Extras Casting Director), TWILIGHT (No, not That Twilight, a different film with Paul Newman and Susan Sarandon) as a Producer’s Assistant and MAN ON THE MOON (Camera Assistant). Willo also spent many years working by her father’s side at his NY-based production company, CINEHAUS.
FAIRIE was Willo’s filmic directorial debut. A fantastical tale about 9 fairy creatures celebrating the new millennium at the Hollywood sign. Willo also shot and directed LAST DAY AT CINETEL, a short work in the reality genre, humorously revealing the inherent frustrations of being an artist trapped in a menial job. Recently, Willo directed a well-received and elaborate theatrical production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, combining cinema, an original score, Victorian Steampunk costumes and an exquisite gothic-hued set. She has also helmed an innovative stage version of DRACULA.
Willo is the founder of GRYPHON PICTURES, a LA and SF-based film company.
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