‘Carol’ coming to Bowlus

By RICHARD LUKEN
Register Reporter

Nils Haaland as Ebenezer Scrooge

He’s been an actor for all of his adult life, and performed dozens of times as the infamous Ebenezer Scrooge.
So will Nils Haaland be fighting butterflies when he graces the Bowlus Fine Arts Center stage Saturday evening?
Absolutely, he replies.
Truth be told, Haaland wouldn’t want it any other way.
Haaland will be in Iola Saturday for the Nebraska Theatre Caravan production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
Tickets for the 7:30 p.m. show sell for $17 in the orchestra and $15 in the balcony. Tickets for full-time students are half price. Tickets are available at the Bowlus and at Iola Pharmacy.
“I had a marvelous acting teacher, George Morrison, and one of the first and most important lessons he bestowed on me was to always accept my emotions,” Haaland said.
Nerves, Haaland explained, are an ideal barometer to gauge an actor’s emotional investment in his performance.
“I hope I have the butterflies,” he said. “They’re good feedback for me.”
The Saturday performance kicks off a whirlwind holiday tour for the Nebraska Theatre troupe, which will travel from Iola to New Haven, Conn. From there, the group will perform 19 times up and down the eastern seaboard, capped by a Dec. 23 showing in Clearwater, Fla.
This will be Haaland’s third year as the miserly Scrooge.

“AS AN ACTOR, I’ve always been enchanted by the story of ‘A Christmas Carol,’” said Haaland, 45. “It’s the brilliance of Dickens’ story, to see this character go through this transformation.”
The lessons are especially profound for younger audience members, Haaland said.
Haaland grew up in upstate New York and was a student in the famed State University of New York (SUNY) at Purchase, which includes among its former students acting greats Stanley Tucci, Edie Falco and Wesley Snipes.
In keeping with SUNY’s mission, Haaland and a group of other graduates eschewed individual careers in acting and instead banded together to found Omaha’s Blue Barn Theatre in 1989.
The community soon embraced the Blue Barn, which has since become one of the country’s most renowned playhouses.
“It’s been my anchor,” Haaland said. “It’s a huge credit to Omaha, which is such a wonderful city for the arts.”
Haaland’s affiliation with the Blue Barn also put him in touch with Carl Beck, the director of “A Christmas Carol” for the Nebraska Theatre Caravan.
“The guy who had played Scrooge for the past 18 years had retired and he called and asked if I’d be interested,” Haaland recalled. “I of course was thrilled to be asked.”
The Nebraska Theatre’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” includes a number of song and dance numbers, along with a few special effects that accompany the arrivals of the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.
“It’s a wonderful adaptation,” Haaland said. “It honors the story through the text, but it diverges with the song and dance. It helps that we have such a tremendously talented ensemble.”

THE NEBRASKA Theatre Caravan was founded in 1975 as a joint project between the Omaha Community Playhouse and the Nebraska Arts Council. The original 12-week program soon grew to tour across Nebraska, Kansas and Wyoming, and in its second season was playing to 45,000 people in 37 communities.
In 1979 the Caravan started performing the Charles Jones adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” nationally with one company touring the Midwest. Three years later in 1982 another company was added to tour the East Coast and a third to tour the West Coast in 1987.
Since its inception, the Nebraska Theatre Caravan has produced 90 fully mounted productions, many of which were new works, and has played to 160 Nebraska communities and numerous others across the nation. The national tour of “A Christmas Carol” has performed in more than 600 cities in 49 states and Canada.