LX assistant Aidan Sparks (left) digs a hole in the frozen ground for a light pole to illuminate the New York City apartment set Phelan Gotto, production assistant, and Cameron Shook, technical director, are building for Caravan Farm Theatre’s Gift of the Magi, which runs Dec. 12-31. The show, set in pre-First World War New York City, takes place under the stars on the idyllic farm setting as patrons are carted from set to set via sleigh. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Theatre offers unique Christmas experience

Caravan Farm Theatre presents The Gift of the Magi Dec. 12-31 on the idyllic North Okanagan farm

A cool breeze rolls across the idyllic North Okanagan farm setting as families gather in sleighs and huddle together for warmth with hot chocolate in hand to take in the Christmas performance.

That’s the holiday tradition Caravan Farm Theatre has cultivated with their annual winter show, and this year is no exception as the theatre presents The Gift of the Magi Dec. 12-31.

Set in pre-First World War New York City, the performance based on O. Henry’s classic short story tells of a young couple who struggle to finance Christmas gifts for one another.

“Both the way it was written and adapted, it explores the more existential side of gift giving,” said director and Caravan Farm Theatre artistic director Estelle Shook. “They are just ordinary people. They want nice things but they don’t have a lot of money.”

On the brink of poverty, Jim and Della both choose to sell their most prized possession — for Jim, it’s a watch that has been passed down through his family, and for Della, it’s her beautiful flowing hair — to purchase a gift for one another. However, with a watch chain for Jim and a hairbrush for Della, the gift they purchase for their partner correlates with their prized object.

“They could choose to freak out, but they choose not to, instead choosing to see these for what they are, which are great gifts of love,” Shook said. “It’s a very beautiful story, and it’s a super timely message.”

Originally brought to the theatre about 15 years ago by then artistic director and now music composer and director Allen Cole, The Gift of the Magi has carved a path at Caravan Farm Theatre as a Christmas classic.

“I was here and saw it and it was one of my favourite Christmas stories of all time,” Shook said. “It’s not a fairy tale — it’s a slice of kitchen sink drama. But there are some really poetic and theatrical scenes as well.”

With crews working tirelessly for two weeks leading up the performance, the quiet farm is transformed into an idealized version of New York City, complete with stoic buildings and Coney Island markets.

“We have a really amazing set designer, and the set is very evocative of a New York flat,” Shook said.

And the immersion takes a step further, as the audience is carted around the farm on sleighs, with up to 10 sleighs hauling 18 passengers at a time, complete with New York City-esque traffic jams.

“We wanted to make the sleigh rides super fun and we even have a traffic cop,” Shook said. “It’s actually really fun to take a very non-rural setting and put it on a farm.”

As the audience is carted around the sprawling countryside, they have the opportunity to step off the sleighs and take in the Coney Island Christmas market set, which is built at ground level and made to immerse the audience in the performance.

While the intent is to have a winter wonderland during the performance, the show will go on regardless of the weather pattern.

“The show is generally similar night to night, but the environment is always different,” said Lisa Mori, communications director, adding that the changing conditions can add to the magic of the evening. “Some of these bad weather events can make for a special evening.”

Their environment-fuelled magic has worked for Caravan, with a cast comprised of Caravan alumni — with Billy Marchenski as Jim, Tracey Power as Della and The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw fan-favourite Randi Hellmers as narrator — and families returning year after year for the unique winter performances.

“It’s an incredibly popular event because there’s nothing else like it in the world and there’s a really finite amount of space,” Shook said. “I think one of the big things for us as a company, we’re incredibly lucky.”

And it’s audience loyalty that means everything to the theatre.

“There’s a tremendous amount of praise for the audience who come out to this crazy farm,” Shook said. “We’re grateful and appreciate of the audience who have us as a part of their family tradition. All of the artists also take it seriously by trying to make the best holiday show we can.”

Caravan Farm Theatre presents The Gift of the Magi Dec. 12-31. Early bird shows are Dec. 13 at 7 p.m., 14 and 15 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., with tickets for $34 adult and $22 youth 18-and-under. Regular shows are Dec. 16-20 and Dec. 27-31, with shows at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and tickets for $42 adult and $25 youth 18-and-under. Holiday shows areDec. 21-23 and 26, with shows at 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and tickets for $45 adult and $25 youth 18-and-under. Limited tickets remain and are available through the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca. When the show is sold out, call the Ticket Seller to be placed on a waitlist.


@VernonNews
entertainment@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Crews are at work building sets based off of models, such as the New York City apartment setting, for Caravan Farm Theatre’s Gift of the Magi Dec. 12-31. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Just Posted

UPDATED: Okanagan Mountain Park fire forces evacuation alert

Properties from 6006 to 8888 Lakeshore Road are being placed on an evacuation alert

Carrot Mountain fire fans smoke over West Kelowna

A cluster of three fires are burning above West Kelowna

Complete list of B.C. Interior wildfire coverage

Up-to-date information on blazes happening the Kamloops Wildfire Centre

UPDATED: Highway 97 closed again due to wildfire

Motorists may use an alternate route via Highway 97C, Highway 5A and Highway 3

Two fires caused by lightning at Big White last night

The fires are currently being contained

Breaking: More evacuation orders for Mount Eneas wildfire, south of Peachland

The BC Wildfire Service is battling a large wildfire alongside Highway 97 in Peachland.

Update: Summerland wildfire forces PIB state of emergency

More than 40 firefighters are on scene of the wildfire near Mount Conkle, just outside of Summerland.

Hockey trip fraudster receives house arrest

Man duped 16 families with Okanagan Elite Hockey Association out of over $100,000

Four wild fires still burning near Keremeos

One fire was extinguished and another reported after lightning came through area

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Installers to battle Team B.C.

Exhibition men’s fastball Saturday in Vernon

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Most Read