Christmas past, present and puppets visit Breckenridge |

Christmas past, present and puppets visit Breckenridge

Paige Blankenbuehler
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Special to the Daily/Christopher Willard

The Backstage Theatre is presenting an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 29. The production is Charles Dickens’ holiday classic in plot, but not in presentation.

Commissioned by the Backstage and adapted by Josh Hartwell, the play is delivered by a cast of puppets created by Cory Gilstrap of Imagined Creations.

Artistic director Christopher Willard said the production came together in an eclectic and fortuitous way.

“Our actors are extremely passionate and we were lucky to work with the talent of Cory Gilstrap, who brought another component to the production with his handcrafted puppets.”

The actors each play several characters using puppets and larger-than-life masks created by Gilstrap, designer for the Backstage’s multi-award-winning production of “The Hobbit.”

Acting with puppets and masks requires special techniques and training, which the performers underwent in Denver before coming up to Breckenridge.

“The puppets are controlled by the actors in the play but they really end up taking up a personality of their own,” Willard said.

The Tiny Tim puppet, made mostly of moldable foam, plastic and rubber is garnished with crutches and a facial expression that depicts his pain.

Gilstrap said of all the puppets featured in the production, Tiny Tim was the one that took the longest to construct because of the importance of detail.

“Tiny Tim had to be seen as a character worth feeling sorry for,” Gilstrap said. “He really drives Scrooge’s transformation and I thought it was the most important part of the production to get his character to speak to the audience.”

Jim Hunt plays the familiar role of Ebenezer Scrooge. However, the theater hopes the addition of Gilstrap’s puppetry gives Scrooge’s journey toward redemption a whole new energy and feel.

Other actors include Brian Landis Folkins, Mackenzie Paulsen and Lindsey Pierce.

“There are various styles of puppetry in use in this production,” Willard said. “Most of the ghost puppets are bunraku-style puppets that require two operators to bring them to life. We are using a rod style for the narrators. We’re utilizing full-size shadow puppets for the Fezziwig party and kite-style puppets for the phantoms that appear during the Marley scene.”

“You have to breathe life into an inanimate object and to invest in it so completely that the audience believes that object is alive, a unique personality and full of character.”

Early bookings and reservations are recommended by the theatre company. Tickets can be purchased at

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