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ITHACA, NY – Civic Ensemble presents The Spirit of Christmas Present: A Poetic Carol in Three Movements which is influenced by the humanitarian vision of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

At the heart of Dickens’ story are his concerns about poverty and social injustice, and while The Spirit of Christmas Present only deals with such themes indirectly, the staging of a nostalgic Christmas tale might help to restore a social harmony and well-being lost in the modern world.

The Spirit of Christmas Present is Civic Ensemble’s first holiday offering, and is the first phase in the long-term development of a larger piece with conceiver Freddy Villano. Intended for a family audience including children of all ages, the actors will be performing in full mask, using only their bodies to communicate.

Villano says of the show, “Generosity at this time of year is almost always equated with the material, but we’re here to show you that it is most abundantly enjoyed through simple gestures of kindness.”

The Spirit of Christmas Present continues Civic’s tradition of inclusion and innovation. A collaboration with the History Center of Tompkins County, the show is inspired by both Dickens and our own local history of those in poverty living on the edges of society.

Civic Ensemble has been working with the History Center doing research on Silent City and the Rhiners in Ithaca. The heydey of the Rhiners was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, overlapping the Victorian era in which Dickens was writing.

Villano explains, “You may glimpse some of the information we’ve gleaned from our research in the piece this year, but this is a performance that will be developed further in 2016, over a longer trajectory, so much of that material may not manifest itself in this round.”

In addition to conceiving and directing …Christmas Present, Villano will also appear in the production. Villano has an MFA in Ensemble-based Physical Theatre (Class of ’07) from the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre.

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Freddy’s recent performances include Civic Ensemble’s Circle Forward and Antigone. Also starring are: Alyssa Duerksen, who has a BFA in Acting (Class of ’07) from Ithaca College, and currently performs in the alt-punk-folk group Misses Bitches; Brianna Ford, who is pursuing a BFA in Acting at Ithaca College (Class of ’16), and was recently seen in IC’s As You Like It and Civic Ensemble’s Tin Can Fantasy Factory Tour of Owen’s Story; And Daniel Ghezzi, who is also pursuing a BFA in Acting at Ithaca College (Class of ’16), and is appearing in IC’s Anon(ymous).

Civic Ensemble is a non-profit theatre company serving Ithaca and Tompkins County that produces new plays by or about women and people of color, re-imaginings of classics, and community-based plays that explore and explode the social, political, and cultural issues of our time.

Through the production of plays and innovative community development programs, the company works to bring audiences of different races, classes, and experiences together in a public forum on the American experiment. Civic Ensemble is committed to employing Ithaca-based theatre artists whenever possible. It is our vision that theatre be accessible to all people, onstage and off.

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Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.