Rosarito Theater Guild Brings Us A Classic

It’s a Wonderful Life brought to us by one actor with 32 parts. Somehow it works
BY: TOM EMANUEL

Thanksgiving is a fabulous time of year. We look back in the fall at all the blessings we have received through the course of the year. We look forward to the arrival of frosty winter nights, the briskness of sparkling cold days and the coming of Christ4mas. So what are you doing the weekend after Thanksgiving? A long weekend lays ahead promising a lot of football and a lot of couch time. But wait! Don’t just lay on the couch watching football! Do something for yourself! Get a little culture!  The Rosarito Theatre Guild has just the ticket for you.

You may not be old enough to remember It’s A Wonderful Life, a 1946 movie directed by Frank Capra. The star is Jimmy Stewart who plays George Bailey a man who intends to commit suicide on Christmas eve because he perceives his life is a failure. But his guardian angel, his wife, and his uncle Billy convince George that he has lived a valuable life, touching many people in a way nobody else could.

Capra’s film was criticized as too simplistic when it first came out and was taken as the start of his downfall as a director. It was expensive to make and did not do as well at the box office as most of his previous efforts had done. However, ultimately it was nominated for five Academy Awards, including best picture, and the American Film Institute named it number one on its list of the most inspirational American films of all times. It has become a Christmas classic, and every year it’s shown on TV about 100 times of the day and night.

For their last offering of the year the Rosarito Theater Guild is bringing us This Wonderful Life, a one man show by the great professional actor, James Leaming. In a bravura performance he brings us all of Bedford Falls - all 32 characters.

JamesLearning.jpg But how do we know what is going on? Especially if we haven’t seen the movie? Mr. Leaming takes care of that by creating a character who wasn’t in the movie, a “stage manager”. He also favors us with a whole set of conversations between himself and the audience, and between the characters he plays. This nifty technique brings us right into the spirit of the film, the intensity of the situation.  He turns this iconic emotional tour-de-force into a beautiful evocation of the human and heavenly themes which have such a central part in the best of the American psyche.

James Leaming is a consummate professional actor. He has had a full stage career performing Shakespeare, Shaw, and Dietz. He is a founding member of the American Blues Theater Company, now celebrating over 30 years of excellence on the boards. The American Blues Theater Company has 39 performers who have received nearly 150 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater and more than 22 Black Theater Alliance Awards. Their artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.

James himself has been honored with numerous awards including an After Dark Award in The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon for the Running With Scissors Theater Company. He has performed at Steppenwolf, Writer’s Theater, and the Goodman. He trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and at Second City in Chicago. James also does voice-overs and has appeared in films such as Prison Break and The View From Tall. He is also a skilled set and lighting designer, having received a Joseph Jefferson Award for Tobacco Road, a play in which he also acted.

James has lived in Colorado, New Mexico, and California, but he now makes his home in Chicago with his actress wife, Carmen Roman. Part of his heritage is tied to the Catawba Indian Nation and he practices some of their rituals in his work: “I bless the theater I am in by burning sage and sweetgrass and say a prayer.” he says.

So top off the turkey with a great show and a wonderful start on the Christmas season. You will be truly amazed at the new twist in the characters that James Leaming brings you.  He does not do impressions, a la Rich Little, but he brings alive the spirit of the actors who were a symbol of the era.

The Rosarito Theatre Guild’s final show of 2015 will take place Thanksgiving weekend: Friday, November 27th at 7 P.M., with two matinees, Saturday, November 28th at 2:00 P.M. and Sunday, November 29th at 2:00 P.M. Tickets for this special event are $25 except for children who attend the Saturday show. Their price is only $5.00.

Reservations for This Wonderful Life are available at www.rosaritotheatre.org or by calling 664-609-3451.