BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN After Gary Janisch watched his wife, Peg, perform in River City Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” in 2016, he had an idea.
“I contacted (director) Suzi (Larkin) and said, ‘I’d love for you to do this again. I’ll produce it . . . I’d like the funds to go to Love INC,’” Janisch said.
Larkin and the cast agreed to perform the show again, including a performance at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 9, at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Delano.
Admission to the show will be a free-will donation, with all the proceeds going to Love INC-Heartland, thanks to an anonymous donor covering all costs of the production.
“It’s a really good fit for us to do this at ‘this festive time of year when want is keenly felt,’” Larkin said, quoting a line from “A Christmas Carol.”
Larkin is very familiar with the script, as she adapted the story for Readers Theater.
The story centers around Ebeneezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghost of his partner, Marley; the Ghost of Christmas Past; the Ghost of Christmas Present; and the Ghost of Christmas Future.
“He learns the true meaning of humanity, life, and Christmas,” Larkin said. “It’s a story of redemption.”
And River City Theatre is telling that story in a unique way.
“What makes it so amazing is what happens in your mind and imagination,” Larkin said of Readers Theater. “You participate more in the theater than with something with all the costumes and sets. You create it. We have some sound effects and smoke machines. There are elements of theater that add spark to it.”
A cast from several area communities including Peg Janisch, Vic Anderson, and Rich Kubista from Delano bring the story to life.
The decision to adapt the story for Readers Theater was an easy one.
“‘A Christmas Carol’ is ideally suited for Readers Theater because the story is so well-written,” Larkin said. “Because Dickens is so funny, and the story is so inspirational, it connects with the audience immediately.”
That’s what Janisch remembers from seeing the show in 2016.
“I couldn’t believe how focused the audience was,” Janisch said. “You could hear a pin drop.”
The show appeals to the audience’s senses.
“It really brings to life all the sights, sounds, and aromas of the season,” Larkin said. “I don’t know how many times he says ‘sage and onion.’ To me, that’s Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
This holiday season will be brighter for many through the work of Love INC-Heartland, due in part to the financial support from this production.
“Hundreds and hundreds of families are getting help from Love INC this Thanksgiving and Christmas season,” Love INC-Heartland Director Terri Mills Harris said.
Mills Harris shared more about the organization.
“Love INC-Heartland is a local ministry that has 30 churches working cooperatively to serve 15 local towns,” Mills Harris said. “Neighbors in need from these towns can call in for help. People in the churches are there to assist them. Love INC practices Biblical, holistic help, and we help people in ways that give them a hand up, a move forward, and help them get more self-sufficient.”
The local organization has helped meet about 100,000 needs over the years.
“That’s why we’re excited about giving you the funds and helping you out,” Janisch said.
In addition to the Delano show, two performances of “A Christmas Carol” took place Saturday and Sunday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Watertown.
“We had people coming in just from other people saying how great it was,” Janisch said.
Admission was a free-will donation.
“What’s neat is I saw, on Saturday, some people came in and gave $50. One lady said, ‘This is all I have,’ and put 60 cents in the basket,” Janisch said. “That’s the neat thing about this. When you do a goodwill offering, you open it up to so many people.”
Mills Harris added that some people donated clothes and food as their admission to the show, donations that were gratefully accepted.
“Through the donations from our generous community from this production, we are able to continue vital work in the community, as we help struggling families move forward and receive love from their neighbors and the help they need,” Mills Harris said. “ . . . We disseminate all kinds of donations. If somebody has something to give, we know how to filter back so people in need get it.”
Tickets for a show at 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Medina Entertainment Center, where appetizers will be served, will cost $50 each, with proceeds benefiting Love INC-Heartland. As of Monday, 10 tickets remained. If available, they may be purchased by calling Julie at (763) 972-6547 ext. 5.
A Dec. 1 performance at the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis will benefit outreach programs there.