Donna Shirnberg (right) rehearses Tuesday with Hannah Tauriainen in preparation for “Inspecting Carol” Tuesday at the Triumvirate North Theatre in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Donna Shirnberg (right) rehearses Tuesday with Hannah Tauriainen in preparation for “Inspecting Carol” Tuesday at the Triumvirate North Theatre in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

“Inspecting Carol” a show within a show

The story is well known. A greedy, desolate man learns to share the joys of Christmas with friends and family after receiving guidance from three ghosts — of Christmas past, present and yet to come.

All the heartwarming feels of Charles Dickens’ classic, “A Christmas Carol,” draw audiences to theaters each year throughout the country to relive the tale.

Well, this isn’t that story. Triumvirate North Theater’s upcoming holiday season production tells the story behind the story.

Triumvirate North is showcasing a different type of holiday feature with this year’s production of “Inspecting Carol,” which opens Friday at 7 p.m. and runs for two weekends, including Saturday night and continuing into Dec. 21 and 22, with all show times at 7 p.m.

The show, directed by Kate Schwarzer, features a sizable cast of a dozen local actors and actresses with a wide variety of experience and styles.

Schwarzer, directing her third production with Triumvirate North, said the comedy provides a look behind the scenes of a struggling play company down on their luck and trying to push through rehearsal and production of the Dickens story as funding runs out and a mystery woman complicates matters.

“It’s a show within a show,” Schwarzer explained.

The title originates from the storyline that introduces a young actress, played by Nikki Stein, who stumbles onto a chaotic set that is losing funding to support its productions. The young lady is mistaken by the regular stage crew as an “inspector” actress, only there to evaluate the production.

“It’s a case of mistaken identity,” Schwarzer said. “The actress comes and they think she’s the inspector, there to watch it.”

The show’s leading roles include those of Chris Pepper, Donna Shirnberg and Hannah Tauriainen. Pepper takes on the role of the actor that plays Ebenezer Scrooge, but his character’s demands to change up the script throw another wrench into the mix.

Tauriainen is a veteran of Triumvirate North since the beginning, with about “20 to 30 shows” under her belt. Tauriainen takes on the role of “M.J.” — a stressed out stage manager who spends nearly every minute of her stage presence attempting to keep rehearsal moving, or in some cases started, as outside events take over.

Tauriainen said after several years of more serious but heartwarming Christmas productions, it was about time to put on a Christmas comedy show that deviated from the standard.

“Be ready to laugh,” Tauriainen said.

The original script was written and released in 1992 by Daniel Sullivan, a playwright who saw his work come to life with help from the Seattle Repertory Theatre.

Schwarzer said longtime Triumvirate owner Carla Jenness brought the play to her attention several months ago as a possibility for the company’s holiday feature. After taking a look through it, Schwarzer decided it was the one.

“It’s something different. It’s not the typical Christmas play, the happy-go-lucky musical,” Schwarzer said. “You feel good about it, but at least something always goes wrong (for the show’s play company).”

Donna Shirnberg brings to life the Zorah Bloch character, a frenzied Lithuanian director who doesn’t take the bad news of the company losing all its funding well. Shirnberg, who has extensive acting experience with the Kenai Performers but is in her first show with the Triumvirate Theatre, said the show features a wide variety of personalities that make for a hilarious explosion of conflicting interactions.

“It’s an overblown view of what theater is,” Shirnberg said. “It’s eclectic. It has unique characters. It’s super over the top.”

Scharzer said most of the “Inspecting Carol” cast has only been rehearsing since Thanksgiving after previous commitments with other plays and productions took up most of their time.

“Inspecting Carol” opens Friday at 7 p.m. and runs for two weekends, including Saturday night and continues into Dec. 21 and 22, with all show times at 7 p.m.

Chris Pepper (right) leads an “Inspecting Carol” rehearsal Tuesday at the Triumvirate North Theatre in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Chris Pepper (right) leads an “Inspecting Carol” rehearsal Tuesday at the Triumvirate North Theatre in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

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