It's hard to believe, but holiday-themed plays are here for the season. This week, I speak with a lively actor named Nolan Zadra. Nolan will play the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the West Bend Theatre Company's rendition of A Christmas Carol. The play takes place December 1, 2, 3 and 8, 9, 10 at the West Bend Masonic Center.
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Fuzz Martin 0:00
Oh man, I was so glad that it snowed the day I released the last episode about the reindeer run. I couldn't have scripted it any better. And I want to thank Mark Baden of Channel 12 for letting me call in that favor he owed me for many years ago to make that snow happen. Thanks, Mark.
Fuzz Martin 0:26
Hi everyone. I'm Fuzz Martin and you're listening to Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz, a show about the positive things happening in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. On this week's episode, you will be visited by three ghosts. Oh, oh. Or we can just have one guest and that will be Nolan Zadra Who is playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the West Bend Theatre Company's rendition of A Christmas Carol, which takes place at the West Bend Masonic center on December 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and again on the 8th, 9th and 10th here in 2023. So let's do that. Here are 15 or so minutes on A Christmas Carol with Nolan Zadra on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.
Fuzz Martin 1:21
Nolan, thank you for joining me today. Can we start by talking a bit about West Bend Theatre Company and its history in our community here.
Nolan Zadra 1:30
Certainly, West Bend Theatre Company was founded in 2010. And that's really where they kicked off Christmas Carol, small production. Nancy Storrs who is the president of West Bend Theatre Company, and it's really sort of a been her baby over the years. And she's just built it into a holiday tradition. It really has been for families to come through years after year, except for 2021. It was knocked out for COVID. Sure. They've also then started to add more shows each year, which are on their website and can talk about that later,
Fuzz Martin 2:01
if you wish. Yep, certainly. And so is the show performed at the Masonic Lodge or where? Where's the Christmas Carol?
Nolan Zadra 2:08
Yes, it's performed at the Masonic Lodge each year. Okay. They have had other shows, I recall South Pacific they had at West Bend High School, right. And I again, we can talk about that later. There's just a quaintness about that theater. It's in a sense theater in the round where it's on both sides of the actors. And that's where it has been for all these years.
Fuzz Martin 2:29
Ahead of this interview, we spoke a little bit off air about your coming up in acting, and you kind of took a non traditional tact to becoming an actor tell us about how you got involved with acting.
Nolan Zadra 2:44
I am a lawyer by training, I had no theater training in West Bend and I went to West Bend High School, graduating class last High School Class of 1970. Great class, we bunch of us still to get together quarterly, and even 50, almost 55 years later. So nothing like that. But I'm a corporate lawyer by training a while by by practice actually working for the last many years at a bank that became 70,000 employees a Fortune 500 company. Sure. And in that process, besides my regular role, I was put in charge of training. And before that, on the side in the 80s, I taught at MSOE and Alverno College Business Law. And let's face it, law is not the most easy thing to follow. And so I thought gyah to teach students, I had to go beyond the norm, and make it more like real life, but with some humor and everything else. Well, once I took that to US Bank, the fact is that we grew to the point where I couldn't travel to sites as much. But I had been traveling to St. Louis and to Kentucky and Nebraska and that, but once we got to about half the nation, we started doing it online. Okay, well, there you not only have to have interesting sound effects and PowerPoints and that type of thing. But you also had to use your voice and, and bring in all sorts of aspects. I had music introducing the course, AC/DC and the like. And so I started going that route. And I also started teaching in the summer a little bit at the Graduate School of banking. And both of my children were in theater, okay, in high school, and I saw how much fun they had. And finally, when I started doing a stick at graduate school banking and put on a Clint Eastwood outfit, it actually gave me the confidence to say, well, you know what, I'm basically acting right, both in my career but on the side also. And why not take a shot at it. And I did at age 61. It was sort of like, sort of a new bucket list kind of thing. Yeah, it's either that or learning guitar and play They ended a band. And I thought whichever one came first, well, I got the lead and 39 steps, which was daunting, because they're almost 40 scenes. And I sort of ran with it since then.
Fuzz Martin 5:12
And you obviously love it because you're still doing it today.
Nolan Zadra 5:15
Yes, I guess I won't say my exact age. But it's quite a bit later than that now, and to now have the opportunity to play Mr. Scrooge himself. Ebenezer is just so thrilling.
Fuzz Martin 5:27
So going down that direction, it is the 14th year that the Westman theatre company will be putting on a Christmas carol. Why do people love A Christmas Carol so much? Why? Why is that our staple here in the United States?
Nolan Zadra 5:42
You know, people love the story, first of all, but perhaps the better question Fuzz is why did they love it so much at West Bend Theatre Company, right? Because I have had people who basically have gone to the paps, like I have to see it, and you're seeing a very professional and wonderful production. And yet, I've had people come up to me after the program when we've done the play, and they've said, Gee, they've enjoyed this just as much as certainly you're not dealing with professional actors. But there's an intimacy about the theater, there is an intimacy about the production. People are right on top of it, you're engrossed with that whole story with the actors, basically, between you and them. And and it's a quaintness and a feeling like you're almost in 1800s, London, that just makes it extra special.
Fuzz Martin 6:39
As you had mentioned, each year, they're adding more shows right? or more times to see it. Is that right?
Nolan Zadra 6:46
Well, they, they they basically and they have of eight shows each year, okay? And it is this year, it's December 1st, 2nd, 3rd and then a week later, okay, we have one show on Friday night, we have two shows on a Saturday at 2pm matinee and a 7pm. Show it in the evening. And I can talk about where they can find information about this. And then a 2pm show on Sunday. And that's repeated then the following weekend. So it's the first two weekends of December. And they sell out every year.
Fuzz Martin 7:19
They do when when I was talking to Nancy, about having you come on to talk about this. I said, Hey, how late should we wait to talk about A Christmas Carol because as this is coming out, it's you know, the first week in November, and she said they're going to sell it fast. So if you want to go see A Christmas Carol, there earlier that we can talk about this, the better because people love seeing it here in West Bend and they will buy up all the tickets
Nolan Zadra 7:44
Fuzz, that is exactly right. I've talked to reference and relatives who will be getting tickets now. Before long, it'll be too late.
Fuzz Martin 7:52
You're playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge this year. Is this your first time in A Christmas Carol? Or have you played roles before?
Nolan Zadra 7:59
No, I had the fortune, first of all, I watched this production since 2010 on a number of occasions, and just enjoyed it. In 2018, Nancy approached me an opportunity to act as Ebenezer Scrooge, and I prepared for that role from May on because the line load is so not Ebenezer Scrooge, excuse me, for Charles Dickens sure, as the narrator, and in the traditional role that this theater does, unlike the past. Dickens has a very intense role covering pretty much every scene and so the line load is very extensive. I prepared for that. Unfortunately, we lost our venue that year. But in 2019, I had the opportunity to act in that role. One of my favorite roles I have ever undertaken that besides Judge Harper in Miracle on 34th Street at Sunset Playhouse. Those are my two favorite roles and what and I was prepared to do it again in 2020. But again, that was the COVID year that cancelled us midway through,
Fuzz Martin 9:03
I played a thief in sixth grade and a Christmas carol so I just kind of like on the same level. I remember it very well. There was a lot of fun.
Nolan Zadra 9:13
But yes, in fact, I can still recite the lines from Dickens roll it because they're so ingrained in my head and and I got immersed in it. Nancy really wanted me to read about Charles Dickens, too and understand where he was coming from. And just a fascinating author and playwright. And obviously that has been changed slightly over time. But the story he tells, it's almost like in Beauty and the Beast, the tale as old as time. Same thing here. People just keep gravitating back to it.
Fuzz Martin 9:44
Kudos to you on the I know that there. That is a large line load for the that Narrator Charles Dickens character. How is it different preparing to be Ebenezer Scrooge versus that role when you were playing Charlie?
Nolan Zadra 9:57
Well, obviously that's a very large line go to And since we just auditioned not long ago, it's it's a much more demanding pace right now to think of all these lines before the opening of the show in December. That being said, one of the advantages of playing Scrooge is most of the play, you're acting off another actor, whereas Charles Dickens narration at times just went on and on. And Dickens writes in a very obtuse and obscure way, in many ways, and it's so it was difficult to remember his colloquy as as such, in working Scrooge, again, you're working off another actor, except until you read meet the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come there. He's not interacting with you other than pointing, and is. So there again, you're back to sort of by yourself trying to give that story without interacting off another character. And it sort of is shift in the winds. Once you get to act two,
Fuzz Martin 11:05
You had spoken earlier about how acting gave you that chance to use your voice so that Charles Dickens character was definitely one that is really voice forward. Do you enjoy now having more physical acting involved in this as well? I mean, it's not. Ebenezer is obviously not zany or going and doing too much. But as well
Nolan Zadra 11:26
Stay tuned for production. He gets a little zany later on, okay. Now, no, you're right. It is an opportunity to act fully, although I will say my version of Dickens as the narrator, Nancy, that year actually opened it up, where the person playing Charles Dickens, in this case myself, really, at times was able to get right upon the audience, okay, and really be involved in acting. But in both cases, it is so fun to be in a way to express yourself. And And what's really interesting, challenging, but interesting is to play the role of someone who is certainly not well liked in the community, and then see this transformation with him and to portray that transformation.
Fuzz Martin 12:16
Nolan, what message or themes in A Christmas Carol resonate most strongly with you personally?
Nolan Zadra 12:22
There's a line from the second act where Scrooge is talking to the ghosts of the future. And he states that men's courses foreshadow certain ends. But if those courses be departed from the ends will change. Say it as a soul with what you show me spirit. And so there is that aspect that you have an ability to a certain point to change your direction in life. And I think that's something that people this story really speaks to. Personally, though, for me, it's also just the warmth of the Christmas season. And this story is so magical in that regard. And in that regard, I just love it because it speaks to that.
Fuzz Martin 13:09
Let's go back to you joining the West Bend Theatre Company. How did you get involved with this theatre company? What What made you come here to West Bend?
Nolan Zadra 13:19
I think again, it was first of all my relationship with West Bend. i This is an area that I've always loved almost settled up here but commuting to Downtown Milwaukee I decided at one point it was too far. Sure. Now, now that I'm retired, I could see living here again, but we are well settled somewhere. And the opportunity after seeing the productions and how well run they were and and again taking my career towards where I basically was acting itself. And, and and really working with other theatre companies. I was really drawn to the story of Christmas Carol and what I had seen in the productions that's what brought me here. Okay, and and the excellence and I give kudos to Nancy because really she has made this such an excellent production. Such a dirty tradition over the years. That that's what brought me here.
Fuzz Martin 14:19
Great. What can audiences expect that makes this year's production of A Christmas Carol unique or special? Maybe compared to other years?
Nolan Zadra 14:27
If I told you that fuzz, give all the secrets? No, no, no, I don't let these let me say at least this. We have a new director and they have different directors each year. Tina Binns. She is young, fantastic, energetic and creative. And so she's got some little nuances that will definitely catch the audience's eye. We also have more interaction with all the characters more involvement with all the characters throughout the play. Even the dickens role, the narrator role has been split, where other characters are saying portions of what Dickens would normally have said. And then the music selection, the they've given a real commitment of time to put forth as they do every year with great music. And it's been expanded now to even more selections. And I think people really enjoy the the music that comes along with this production.
Fuzz Martin 15:26
That was a good way of saying that without giving away any other specialties is, what is what is it like preparing for this role? What is your daily schedule? Now we, you know, we're about a month out from the start, what is that like for you?
Nolan Zadra 15:41
First of all, in, let me say, with respect to the singers, and I'm not a singer in this, the, that's not Scrooge's role. They, they have to give such commitment, of course, and practicing themselves on the various songs, protecting the voices as such, in my role, the aspect of rehearsing at home with with such a line load and the role being on basically almost every act is just to dedicate a lot of time each day to rehearsing and rehearsing rehearsing. And I could only do that with the help of my wife, Diantha. Who gets to know these plays very well, because she's reading the lines of the character before me, either correcting me or, or making even some comments about how I might say something. I don't always agree with her. But I couldn't do it without her. Yeah. And so there's time spent that way. And then, of course, we are in October. And so there have been days where we haven't had rehearsals and singers might have rehearsals. And so it's it's it's not as constant. Once we turn the clock next week, basically, it'll be basically four days a week. Okay. And for those of us commuting some distance. And as the nights go longer, I'd say, you know, it's four hours a night, four hours a day, four days a week. Okay. And then that doesn't include your rehearsal at home. Yeah, for which I'm doing at least hour, hour and a half every day. Wow. Well, so it's, it's a real commitment by people. But when you get time to produce it, and if, and, and it turns out to be a great production, it's all worth it.
Fuzz Martin 17:25
So community theater relies on the support of many people behind the scenes to talk about some of the roles and maybe some of the individuals that help make these productions possible. It's
Nolan Zadra 17:36
It's called Community Theater for a reason. Because it is a community of folks that just put ever every opportunity, and it's all volunteer. Let's face it, people don't have to do this. It's very easy to sit home at all in fall and, and have that extra cocktail or something like that, then then to make the effort to do this. Obviously, our board of directors and Nancy with her dream and drive makes such a difference. As well as each director of the show again, Tina, in this case, to our music director, Janice, was spending umpteen hours at nights with all of the singers. And then the lighting director, ticket director Andrea Gerke, she spends just untold hours. And then there's the parents, particularly because there's so many young actors. And by the way, there are so many great young actors, I continue to be amazed. You know, again, I didn't do anything like this in high school, forensics and debate. Yes, that type of thing, but not, not theater. And these young actors, some of them just, again, amaze me. But they're, their parents have to be there not only helping them with lines, but devoting the time to get them there sometimes be there, especially with very young actors. And so think about all of those people. They're involved in the lighting director, sound effects people, people helping build the stage. And sometimes it's parents that come in and help. It's just everybody pulling together to produce a great production. Yeah.
Fuzz Martin 19:13
And then you're all obviously passionate about it. And that's why you do it, right.
Nolan Zadra 19:17
Yeah, absolutely. There. Don't get me wrong. There are there are times where it just gets to be tiring and long. But you know what the end goal is, and to see the smiles on the faces of the people after show, the warmth of that whole production is just worth it.
Fuzz Martin 19:34
Yeah. Oh, that's wonderful. So wrapping things up again, A Christmas Carol is coming to West Bend as it has for 13 years here at the West Bend Theatre Company. There'll be at the West Bend Masonic Center, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. That'll be December 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and then 8th, 9th and 10th of 2023. Nolan, where can people buy tickets? To the show, and again buy them early, right?
Nolan Zadra 20:01
Absolutely. If you want to be technical Fuzz, the actual URL is a website is westbendtheatreco.com. Now theater is a t h e a t r e not the traditional way you might think of spelling theater. But there's a much easier way to get there and just Google type in West Bend Theatre Company any way you want, okay, and it will pop up there. And once you get there, you'll see the various shows that they offer and they're offering also Blind Dating at Happy Hour in February and Escape to Margaritaville in May next year. But right now you're going to see Christmas Carol pop up front and center. Yep, there's little link to the side for tickets. And you just click on that and all tickets have to be ordered online. There's no in the location purchase. It's just annoying. And but it's very easy to get there.
Fuzz Martin 20:56
All right, and again, buy your tickets early. They will sell out and so if there's a date that you want to see it or one of the you know, early or later show on Saturday, make sure you get those purchased early. Nolan, I appreciate you coming because
Nolan Zadra 21:08
If you miss it, it's going to be humbug.
Fuzz Martin 21:12
Love it. I was I was hoping we're gonna get a humbug idea. Nolan, thank you so much for coming in.
Nolan Zadra 21:16
This was great. Absolutely. My pleasure.
Fuzz Martin 21:18
Thank you again to Nolan Zadra. We're looking forward to seeing him as Scrooge in this years A Christmas Carol with the West Bend Theatre Company. Tickets are on sale now at West Bend theatre co.com. Again, that's West Bend theater co.com An "R-E" on theater, not the other way around. So you could just Google it and save yourself that need to remember, again, West Bend theatre (RE) co.com. But again, Google's your friend.
Fuzz Martin 21:48
And that'll do it for this week's show. If you ever have an idea for the show, be my friend email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, that's fifteen spelled out not the number email@example.com Or go to fuzz.cc/guest that is fuzz.cc/guest and fill out the form. Enough spelling things. New episodes drop on Tuesdays, and I'll talk to you next Tuesday, right here on Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz.