Hill's 'Best One-Man Theatre' stars in 'Christmas Carol'

By Rita Charleston
Posted 12/23/20

Lantern Theater Company continues its current season with a remount of its original adaptation of the play, now in its third year and reimagined for film, virtually (streaming) through Dec. 27.

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Hill's 'Best One-Man Theatre' stars in 'Christmas Carol'

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Written in 1843, Charles Dickens' holiday classic, “A Christmas Carol,” is famous for its ghost of Christmas Past, Present and Future who help Ebenezer Scrooge see the error of his ways. Today, the Lantern Theater Company continues its current season with a remount of its original adaptation of the play. Co-created by Anthony Lawton, who lives on the border between Chestnut Hill and Roxborough, Christopher Colucci and Thom Weaver, the production, now in its third year and reimagined for film, continues virtually (streaming) through Dec. 27.

“We've changed very little from the original.” said Lawton, 53. “The difference is we set up three or four cameras and put a little mike on me to catch sound. So it's a little more intimate than what you would see in the theater because we do have the option of close-ups. But the blocking or the choreography has changed very little. We filmed the play at the Lantern, and everybody wore masks except me. There were plastic shields in place, and we followed all the CDC guidelines.”

Doing all that makes doing the production a little more difficult for some, but Lawton said it cuts both ways. “For example, if I look out and see somebody who's not having a good time, that is difficult for me to accept. But if I'm facing the camera, I can imagine anybody I want on the other side, loving me in the role, so that makes it easier on me.”

Regarding his residence, Lawton's house “backs up right against the Wissahickon Creek, so I have access to all that beauty and nature. It's nice and peaceful here, and it's nice to be able to open my door and not be right out on the street. Plus I was able to get a little more house for my money.”

Originally from Fullerton, California, Lawton did a little bit of acting in high school and even more when he attended the University of Notre Dame.”It was a fun thing to do, and I was good at it. I got a lot of encouragement, so I wound up getting a scholarship to Temple University, where I eventually got my MFA in Acting in 1992. And that's how I ended up in this neck of the woods.”

Since then, Lawton has mostly acted on stage, at theaters in Michigan, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and New York City. Principally, however, he has lived and worked in Philadelphia. His favorite roles include George in “Of Mice and Men” (Walnut Street Theatre); Friar Laurence in “Romeo and Juliet” (Arden Theatre), Autolycus in “The Winter’s Tale,” Cromwell in “A Man for All Seasons” (Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival), etc. He also has had roles in several feature films and on CBS TV's “Hack” and “Cold Case.“

Lawton has performed in over 100 professional productions, including 26 productions of plays by Shakespeare. In 1999, the Philadelphia City Paper named him the city's "Best One-Man Theatre" for his solo productions of Shel Silverstein’s “The Devil and Billy Markham” and C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce” and “The Screwtape Letters.”

In 2003, he was awarded an Independence Foundation grant to develop a production of his first original play, “The Foocy,” which garnered five Barrymore nominations in 2005, including “Best New Play.” In 2016, the Independence Foundation gave him a grant, which enabled him to develop his first musical: an adaptation of George MacDonald’s “The Light Princess.” The Arden Theatre produced the play, which received eight Barrymore nominations, including “Best New Play.” The play won for “Best Original Music,” for which Lawton shared a credit as lyricist.

“However, the pandemic has dealt us a terrible blow, and it's conceivable that some companies will not recover,” Lawton said sadly. “So we're bracing ourselves for less work. Several of my productions had been cancelled, so I looked for something else to do to bring in money.” And since Lawton had made pies and brought them to his fellow thespians in the past, much to their delight, he decided to make that into a profit-making venture. Today, the award-winning actor is selling his tasty treats on Facebook. He'll even hand-deliver them.

“A Christmas Carol” can be streamed into your home for $20. One ticket includes an entire family. Go to www.lanterntheater.org.

Christmas, theatre

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