Doug Ham is directing “A Christmas Carol: The Musical” for Teen Musical Theater of Oregon (TMTO), opening this Friday, Dec.12, at The Craterian Theater in Medford. Throughout his career, Ham has delved into many aspects theater including acting, directing and designing. One afternoon, we met at Boulevard Coffee in Ashland to discuss his latest project.
DH: It’s a really nice, different approach to “A Christmas Carol.” It’s all there, but adding musical and dance numbers just gives it more oomph. There are 49 Teen Musical Theater of Oregon students in the cast. It’s a 90-minute show with tons of scenes, tons of costumes and tons of choreography.
EH: What is it about Charles Dickens’ story “A Christmas Carol” that rings so true?
DH: It shows that at Christmas you can let loose of all of the stuff around you and just see the joy of it. It’s a time when everybody gets together.
EH: What’s it like working with teenagers compared to adults?
DH: I’ve worked with a lot of professionals and a lot of stars; it’s nice not having divas. These are kids that want to learn, they care about theater, and they want to do their best.
EH: How do the teenagers get trained?
DH: It’s teaching while rehearsing. The nice thing about Teen Musical Theater of Oregon is that they have become a family. A lot of them are in every show. Sometimes they get the lead, or sometimes a supporting character. They learn so much working with professional directors, choreographers, designers and musicians. They get really good training over and above what they get from school.
EH: Do you ever have any behavioral problems with the teens?
DH: They all know each other, so there are times when it’s, “Quiet down, so we can keep working,” but they appreciate the process.
EH: How are the productions funded?
DH: Each cast member pays a fee, and it is part of the Craterian season. Most things that come into the Craterian have backers. That helps, because a production can cost tens-of-thousands of dollars. We try to do everything first rate.
EH: You’ve done a lot of different things in theater.
DH: Every aspect of theater has its own high. Whether you direct a show or perform in a show, it’s just a different high. And it changes: When you are performing, you get the applause; when you are on the creative team, you get that satisfaction; or the curtain goes up, and you have designed this wonderful scenery, and the audience applauds. For me, it has to be collaborative. It has to be a team. I want it to be a good experience. That can’t always be the case, but we sure try. You don’t know if it’s going to be good. And you don’t know if a show will sell. All we can do is to give the audience the best that we have, and they’ll come or they won’t. But I think there’s a lot of support from the community for Teen Musical Theater of Oregon. The shows sell well. There are about 800 seats in the Craterian. With a full house these kids just light up.
EH: Why have you spent your life theater?
DH: It’s my therapist; it’s my passion; it’s my joy. You find your niche in life; and every new show is an adventure and a new challenge. I don’t know what I would do without it.