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December 3, 2009

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'A Christmas Carol' on stage

SHANGHAI'S newest English-language theater group is getting into the Christmas spirit in its first production, staging Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

The show by the Shanghai Repertory Theater opens today and runs through Sunday at the Ke Center for Contemporary Arts on Kaixuan Road near Zhongshan Park. Matinees will be staged Saturday and Sunday.

The theater company was founded in late October by American Rosita Janbakhsh, formerly a producer at the EastWest Theater Company. She took much of the creative team behind EastWest to start her own company and she has big plans for Shanghai's theater scene.

Shanghai's English-language theater scene is small: EastWest, Zuloo and now Shanghai Repertory Theater.

"One of my biggest visions is to create a professional theater company that would work with guest directors and travel internationally to other theater festivals, as well as around China," Janbakhsh says.

A former student in the Los Angeles Lee Strasberg Theater Institute and the acclaimed French Theater school Ecole Florent, Janbakhsh has produced and acted in several popular theater productions in Shanghai.

These included "Life X 3," "Waiting for Godot," "California Suite" and "Master Builder."

She aims to stage a theater festival in Shanghai next May that will attract international theater companies. A company from Ireland and two from London have already expressed interest, she says.

"Obviously our own theater company would want to put up two or three full-length plays plus some improvised comedy things," she says. Planning is in the final stages.

"A Christmas Carol" (1843) with a cast of 16 will be directed by Thomas Caron, a 40-year veteran of the American theater scene. It is produced jointly with the Ke Center.

The tale is viewed by some as an indictment of 19th century industrial capitalism and greed. Four ghosts visit miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and warn him to change his ways.

The cast includes professional and amateur actors from America, Ireland, Canada and Israel.

The behind-the-scenes production team, many from EastWest, are a mix of nationalities, including Italian and Chinese volunteers.

Caron ran his own theater company in the United States and has extensive experience in staging Shakespeare.

"A Christmas Carol" will include some familiar faces from EastWest such as Rob Tromp who plays Scrooge and Chinatown's Charlie Mayer who will be Bob Cratchit.

"There are a lot of new faces who haven't acted in Shanghai before so people will get to see a fresh new cast," she says.

The company aims to stage "King Lear" in April and several other productions.

Auditions have already been held for "Lear" and more auditions and paired readings are planned to get a sense of the talent in Shanghai.

"We want to build a theater company that is really intense, really passionate, and really organic," says Janbakhsh.

"We want to all be on the same page in terms of where we want to go and the types of plays we want to do."

'A Christmas Carol'

Date: Today-December 6, 8pm; Matinees at 3pm on December 5-6

Venue: Ke Center for Contemporary Arts, Bldg B, 613 Kaixuan Rd

Tickets: At the door 200 yuan (both adults and children)

Presale: 150 yuan for children/students; 200 yuan for adults; Family package: 600 yuan for two adults, two children.

Tickets available online at and

Tel: 1364-1701-170


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