Johnson City – As part of our Tall Tales series, The Goodwill Theatre will present The Very Dickens! on Sunday, January 27th at 2 p.m. at the Schorr Family Firehouse Stage. Goodwill Theatre’s Tall Tales Series is sponsored by Floyd’s Rent-All Inc. in Endwell, N.Y.
Based on Charles Dickens’ 1868 tour of America, where he performed his work to rave reviews and ecstatic audiences, The Very Dickens! began a number of years ago when Gaen Murphree worked on A Christmas Carol at San Francisco’s award-winning American Conservatory Theatre. “That’s when I learned about Dickens’s lucrative side career as a performer of his own stories,” says Murphree. “The 19th century had lots of professional elocutionists, and many novelists read their work to genteel audiences, but Dickens ended up creating a whole new genre. He didn’t just read the words, he became the characters, he made the stories live and breathe on stage. Audiences went bananas. Dickens was hailed as ‘the greatest reader of the greatest writer of the age.’ We have Mick Jagger and Lady Gaga, they had Charles Dickens.”
This show was created by Gaen Murphree and Neil Flint Worden. The Very Dickens! premiered in a workshop production in June 2010. Murphree adapted and directed the one-man show, which features Worden as Charles Dickens performing selections from David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby and embodying an entire cast of characters.
Dickens began reading tours in earnest in April of 1858. At about the same time he left his wife, Catherine, by whom he’d had ten children, causing a huge public scandal. For the next 12 years, until his early death at 58, Dickens fought publicly with his estranged wife and alienated many of his former friends and supporters. He lived a secret double life as the mystery lover of a young actress half his age. The more he toured and performed, the more the audience’s adulation and adoration became like a drug to him. His health started failing but he couldn’t get enough. Many believe the exhausting demands of touring drove him to an early grave.
Gaen Murphree’s fascination with this often lurid tale inspired her to begin reading and re-reading her way through the Dickens oeuvre and the mountains of Dickens research. When Worden came on board, the two started by reading Dickens’ own performance versions around the kitchen table. Things started to click. The piece received a huge boost in August 2010 when it was awarded a grant from the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation.
“Dickens is like the 19th-century Shakespeare, his language and characters are so rich,” says Worden, “and getting to portray both Dickens and this array of characters is an amazing challenge for an actor. In fact, as a ‘mature’ actor, this was exactly what I needed to inspire the sense of wonder about character that all actors share and Dickens had in spades throughout his life.”
A professional actor and director for the past 25 years, Neil Flint Worden recently appeared with Olympia Dukakis in Another Side of the Island at Alpine Theatre Project and the Orlando Shakespeare Theater. For six years, he ran the Acting program at Vassar College. He has also taught at the University of Washington, the Utah Shakespearean Lab School, the CVE program in San Francisco, Ben Delatour Scout Ranch, and the National Camp School for the Boy Scouts of America. Worden completed his Fight Director training at Dueling Arts International under Gregory Hoffman and has choreographed nearly 30 full productions over the past 10 years. He holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Washington School of Drama.
Playwright/Director Gaen Murphree holds an MFA in Theatre Directing from the University of Washington School of Drama. She began her theatre career playing free Shakespeare in the park across Oregon and Washington. Most recently, she was associate director on A Christmas Carol, at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre. She also directed A Bright Room Called Day and The Conduct of Life for ACT’s MFA Acting Program. Ms. Murphree has worked at regional theatres across the country, including the Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Intiman Theatre, and the Actors Theatre of Louisville. Favorite theatre projects include performing her one-woman show Juno: Postcards from Olympus, playing a Wacky Mom on Stilts for disadvantaged kids across California with San Francisco’s Make a Circus, and working with the San Francisco Mime Troupe.
For more information on The Very Dickens!, please visit www.theverydickens.com
Tickets for The Very Dickens! are $15 for adults and $10 for senior citizens, students and children. Reservations, and information on all shows, are available by calling the Goodwill Theatre Box Office at (607) 772-2404, ext. 301. You can also purchase tickets on our website: www.goodwilltheatre.net. Tickets, if still available, will also be sold at the door, one hour before show time.