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IC group brings grumpy Grinch to Playhouse


Dr. Seuss long ago ensured that the phrase “Christmas greenery” would include more than just Christmas trees and ropes of evergreen garland draped across the mantle.

by Angela Bauer, Journal-Courier

The popular author made sure there was room for his character the Grinch at the holiday buffet — and a group of Illinois College-affiliated thespians is ensuring this weekend that there’s room for the Grinch, live, in Jacksonville.

IC graduate Squire Prince and IC associate professor of theater Craig Steenerson are bringing “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” to life at Playhouse on the Square in downtown Jacksonville.

“He and I were talking about doing something this Christmas,” Steenerson said of his collaboration with Prince. “We decided we’d do a children’s show. … It’s college students and four kids who range in age between probably 6 and 13.”

They’re calling it an “exaggerated” reader’s theater. There will be costumes and some degree of a set, and the narrators are the only ones with a script.

Steenerson, with a background in stage design and theater tech, was happy to incorporate sound effects into the production.

“We’re building some small cut-out (set) things for the Grinch’s cave,” he said. “We have a sound-effects Foley. When the Grinch scratches his head … when he gets an idea …”

In other words, things happen on stage, and the audience hears a related sound.

“It enhances the play a bit when younger kids can hear” the sound effects, he said.

While suitable for a range of ages, the production is geared toward younger children, Steenerson said, noting that it’s only about 30-minutes long.

“If they want to bring a blanket and pillow and lay down in front of the stage and watch it, they can do that,” he said. “We’ll have hot chocolate, probably a chance to take photos with the Grinch after.”

And maybe some holiday karaoke.

After this weekend’s shows in town, the production will go on the road for a couple of shows at a arts magnet elementary school in Champaign as part of IC’s outreach program, Steenerson said.

“The fifth-grade class (at the magnet school) are going to be our tech staff,” he said. “They’re excited.”

It’s the kind of thing made possible by assorted collaborations within the Jacksonville and central Illinois arts community.

Playhouse co-owner Rich McCoy occasionally offers his theater’s space to IC faculty and students, giving them another outlet aside from IC TheatreWorks’ two main-stage productions each academic year, Steenerson said.

“We all like to go down there — staff, faculty — whenever we can,” he said of the Playhouse. “… I talked to Squire about something simple, fun. Something the community would enjoy and, hopefully, come out and support.”

Greenery it was.


If you go …

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas” will be staged at noon and 4 p.m. Saturday and at 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday at Playhouse on the Square in downtown Jacksonville. Tickets are $5 at the door.

About Illinois College

Founded in 1829, Illinois College is a residential liberal arts college fostering academic excellence rooted in opportunities for experiential learning while preparing students for lifelong success. The college is located in Jacksonville, Illinois. With an enrollment of about 1,000 students, the college offers over 50 undergraduate programs. In 1932 the society of Phi Beta Kappa established a chapter at Illinois College, and it remains one of only 11 in the state.

Illinois College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association.

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