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Retired arts reporter keeps busy on stage.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Fred Crafts is nothing if not busy this holiday season.

The former Register-Guard arts writer is producing, directing and appearing in not one but three productions of a new Christmas show, "A (Cracked) Christmas Carol" - all pretty much at the same time.

Oh, yes, and he wrote them all, too.

The biggest show opens Friday night for a three-day run at Pleasant Hill Community Theatre, with Crafts as narrator and Mike Moscovitz as Scrooge.

(Playing Scrooge in a shorter version that will play to a Eugene Rotary lunch crowd on Dec. 18 will be long-time Eugene thespian Ed Ragozzino. Father Ted Berktold was Scrooge in the version that ran earlier this month at St. Mary Episcopal church.)

Crafts, who retired from The Register-Guard in 2004, has been working steadily on his adaptations of Dickens for the past several years.

"After having written numerous articles about Christmas performances, I never dreamed I would be in the Christmas business," he said. "It's put a totally different spin on December."

He first adapted "A Christmas Carol" as an old-time radio show for a production a few years ago with Eugene Rotary.

The radio show format is ideal, he says, for inexperienced actors who don't have a lot of time to commit to learning lines and attending rehearsals.

"These plays can be done by anybody," he said. "They don't require professional actors. I do it with minimal rehearsals. I could do it with just one, but I like three or four. People are going to read out of the script. They don't have to memorize any lines."

Crafts himself plays the narrator, keeping the show moving along.

As he developed his idea of the play, he realized he wanted to bring a bit more zaniness to the story than perhaps Charles Dickens had in mind.

His current version includes such characters as Jack and Jill and Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

"I just let my mind go free," he said. "I wrote a play that I would be interested in going to see."

The version that opens in Pleasant Hill on Friday will be done by a dozen actors in the manner of an old-time, live radio broadcast. The audience will be seated at gaily decorated tables and served desserts and beverages and will be involved in the faux broadcast.

Michael Stearns plays Marley; Rich Scheeland is Bob Cratchit; and Tia Politi, Karen Scheeland and Terry Holmes are the ghosts. Others in the cast are David Erickson, Bob Glasser, Warren Hopper, Rob Laney, Robin Lomont, Lezlie Pearce-Hopper, Kate Smith and Kim Ward.

Crafts, 67, said he has tried writing novels during his career, but the writing never worked.

"But doing plays, it just flows out of me. I am amazed at how easy it is. The voices talk to me in my head. That may say something dastardly about myself."

He's got a pretty good grasp of theater, he says, from his many years as an arts writer.

"Having seen lots of theater, having sat through so many productions over the years, I think I know what makes things work," he said.

He got more serious about writing after a recent brush with cancer and following the death of his father earlier this year.

"I don't have any time to waste," he said. "If I am going to do something like this I better do it."

His only problem right now is being overbooked. With three productions running in December, he hasn't had much chance to slow down and savor the holiday spirit.

"I have been up since 2:45 this morning working on details," he said. "I feel exhilarated and exhausted at the same time."

PLAY PREVIEW

A (Cracked) Christmas Carol

What: A humorous adaptation by Fred Crafts of the Charles Dickens' classic Christmas story

Where: Pleasant Hill Community Theatre, 355751/2 Zephyr Way, Pleasant Hill

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $15, including dessert and beverages, at www.phct.org
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Title Annotation:Arts and Literature
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Dec 13, 2007
Words:670
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