"It was the best of times; it was the worst of times," is not just the opening line from "A Tale of Two Cities," but could describe Charles Dickens' reasons for embarking on an American reading tour eight years after penning it.
"Dickens in America" is a tour de force performance by actor James Ridge, who will portray Dickens in four performances through the Gainesville Theatre Alliance, the nationally acclaimed collaboration between the University of North Georgia, Brenau University, theatre professionals and the north Georgia community. Two of the performances are on UNG's Oconee and Dahlonega campuses.
When Dickens arrived in New York in 1867, his nerves were frayed from the trauma of near-death experience, when all of the railway cars ahead of his plunged off a bridge. Still, he threw himself into a breakneck schedule of readings to his adoring American audience, probably knowing it was his last visit abroad, and lapped up the attention of thousands of fans as he met them in theatres for his farewell readings.
This exciting new, one-man play finds Charles Dickens (Ridge) on the last stop of his final American tour. In spite of his failing health, Dickens is a marvel of witty, thrilling colloquy. He slips seamlessly into characters of his own creation, amplifying his classic novels with witty dialogue and excerpts to bring to life some of the most beloved characters in fiction. In the space between, he returns to himself, his charming, off-the-cuff insights ringing with hope and melancholy, because this is also his goodbye to the audience he so loves.
Ridge is a core company member of the American Players Theatre, a professional, classic theater located just outside Spring Green, Wisc., which plays to an audience of more than 100,000 annually.
"Dickens in America" is authored by fellow APT company member James DeVita, who appeared with GTA's SouthernStage last season with "In Acting Shakespeare," his own autobiographical show about his transition from New York longshoreman to Shakespearean actor.
Show times and locations are:
- UNG's Oconee Campus: 7:30 p.m. March 12, Student Resource Center Room 522. All tickets $5.
- UNG's Dahlonega Campus: 7:30 p.m. March 13, Gloria Shott Performance Hall, Nix Mountain Cultural Center. All tickets $5.
- Buford's Sylvia Beard Theatre: 7:30 p.m. March 15 and 2:30 p.m. March 16. Tickets $10 for adults and seniors, and $5 for students of any age. Discounted tickets to Buford performances available for UNG and Brenau faculty, staff and students, who must contact the Box Office for specially discounted tickets.
Patrons can select and purchase seats on the website, www.gainesvilletheatrealliance.org, or by calling the GTA Box Office at 678-717-3624, Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.