It took more than a few Christmases past, but thanks to Fresno City College, Mark Standriff finally gets to play Scrooge
On his 18th go-around, he hit the Scrooge jackpot.
As a professional actor, Mark Standriff over the decades has played every male role in “A Christmas Carol” – except for Ebenezer Scrooge. That changes on Saturday, Dec. 4, with a radio-show version of the beloved holiday classic directed by Fresno City College professor Janine Christl. Two live free, outdoor performances (1 and 3 p.m.) of “A Christmas Carol” will be held in the midst of a Holiday Faire at Fresno City College. Following that, the production can be heard as a real radio show: A recorded version will be played on KYNO-940 AM on the following dates: 10 a.m. Dec. 12; 4 p.m. Dec. 19; and 7 p.m. Dec. 23.
Here’s a rundown:
His day job: Standriff spent a lot of time in the public eye as city spokesperson for Fresno mayors Ashley Swearengin and Lee Brand. He shifted into a new role in Mayor Jerry Dyer’s administration, now serving as director of Beautify Fresno.
But he keeps getting called back to the stage: Standriff is a prominent name on the local theater scene, particularly for his appearances with StageWorks Fresno. Most of his theater credits, however, come from Toledo Repertory Theatre and Sacramento Theatre Company, where (among many other shows besides “A Christmas Carol”) he played such roles as Mr. Fezziwig, the Solicitor and the Ghost of Christmas Present. His first role in the show came at age 12, when he played the Turkey Boy (the one who shows up when Scrooge opens up the window after his nocturnal adventure and asks, “What day is it?”) But … no Scrooge himself, until now.
The setting and format: The radio show is set in the 1940s, and we briefly meet the actors before the story begins. From there, it’s an opportunity to tell the story in abbreviated form. (The show runs between 30-35 minutes.) Standriff explains: “It’s just a really short, tight, punchy version. If you know the story, you’ll be satisfied. And, if for some reason you’ve been in a Christmas cave this whole time and you’ve never seen ‘A Christmas Carol,’ you still get the essence of what Dickens was trying to get at: This is the time of year where souls get saved. It’s just a wonderful little piece.”
Another reason he loves the show: Standriff met his wife, Sally, in a Toledo Rep production of “A Christmas Carol.” He was playing Bob Cratchit; she was Belle, Scrooge’s neglected girlfriend from the past.
Scrooge (pre-transformation) would hate this romantic story: “We got to be friends during the production. We started hanging out, and then we started getting cast in shows together. We played husband and wife in ‘Blithe Spirit.’ We were girlfriend and boyfriend in ‘Boys Next Door.’ And then suddenly people started saying, so how long before you guys get married? And we’re like, What are you talking about? We’re just friends. And they’re like, if you don’t know that you’re both madly in love with each other, you’re the only people in town who don’t get it.”
Scrooge (post-transformation) would love this romantic story: Sally has a booth at the Fresno City College Holiday Faire, where she is selling artistic, holiday-themed Covid-19 masks (shameless plug from her husband: They’re really comfortable) and will be able to watch his performance.
Is it tough after all those times playing opposite theater’s most famous curmudgeon to offer an original take on the role? “I wanted to bring my own interpretation, my own persona, my own demons — ghosts — into this production,” he says. “At the same time, other people have done it so well. I’ve seen some absolutely brilliant performances that you can’t help but be touched by it a little bit – but I’m just trying to deliver my Scrooge.”