Christmas wreath and striped scarf

About the Show

We decided to take a break this year (2010) and watch a classic ballet, The Nuncracker, as performed by The Little Sisters of Hoboken. Just a way to break the habit. For a pictorial taste: http://theatre.parkland.edu/2009/nunsense.html.

Writer’s Notes

I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.
Their faithful Friend and Servant,
C. D.
December, 1843.

Putting A Christmas Carol on the Parkland College Stage

Over the past year, I reflected upon our previous productions of A Christmas Carol and reviewed all of the pluses and minuses in preparation for the 2009 production. There were notes from staff and audience members, my own recollections of both on and off stage experiences and, because I’m never in the audience, I watch the play using digital recordings of the production. There are, of course, improvements that can and will be made both to script and production values; you’ll see some of them this year and some in years to come. In general, though, it’s a production of which we can all be proud. This is a far cry from the productions my sister Suzanne and I staged in our living room in Detroit or the magic shows and neighborhood carnivals we put up in our garage or backyard. There’s no “see the invisible man” sideshow for a penny or nickel; those days have long passed except for the wonderful memories that swell my heart as I recall them.

These same emotions now strike me as we prepare for another presentation of this story of Christmastime. No, it’s not a Nativity pageant for sure and carries no overt religious message, but I believe that it touches us in ways most practical and reminds us of what the spirit of the season really represents. Dickens was commenting on 19th Century British society but he was prescient in many ways and, in this adaptation, I have tried to pass the message on as he intended. Scrooge notes to his nephew, “What is Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money, a time for finding yourself a year older but not an hour richer.” Later, in our script, Scrooge expresses his take on the season to a shopkeeper he has loaned money to stating, “Christmas seems to be nothing more than a convenient time to dodge one’s indebtedness in the name of good will and cheer.” Poignantly modern observations, it seems to me.

As I noted last year, there’s an amazing relevance within this story as originally penned by Dickens to today’s society just as it was more than 150 years ago. Then, just as now, Scrooge’s, and society’s, ghosts are still with us: cultural, economical, and political. It is said that history has a way of repeating itself and, after almost seventy years of life, I believe it so. Unfortunately I also believe that we pay little attention to that adage. But beyond the messages contained within the story there is value in experiencing the telling of that story and I and my colleagues hope that you’ll come away from this production with a smile and warm feelings for all of those in your life.

This production is the sum total of the work of so many talented people. My primary collaborator, Parkland College’s Director of Music, Tim Schirmer, has written a wonderfully era-correct musical score. Tim previously composed music for another Dickens’ Christmas story, The Cricket on the Hearth, and his music for our version of Carol, along with lyrics by Parkland College’s Fine and Applied Arts Department Chair, Seamus Reilly, and former lyrics partner, Cheri Coons, lifts this telling of the story in an incomparable way. The production staff in every department has put their professional imprint on the stage even though constrained by matters of space, time and budget. Last year’s and this year’s cast are remarkable in that for many this is their first foray into a stage production of this scope; I am honored and proud to be among them in the cast.

A Christmas Carol is a story of family relationships, needs, and desires. I truly hope that you come away from our telling of the story as enriched in the Spirit of Christmas as I have been enriched by the process of researching and adapting it. Merry Christmas!

—Nick Schneider, Writer-Producer (October 2009)

 

Director’s Comments

Try having a short conversation with almost anybody about A Christmas Carol and you have potential for learning some incredibly fascinating things. You usually discuss the first time you became aware of the story or what actor you think really created the perfect portrayal of Scrooge. People often begin to relive memories from holidays past and openly share where those memories connect to A Christmas Carol. Have enough of these short conversations and time and time again the theme of “tradition” takes center stage in the discussion. Many of us have a tradition of watching our favorite film version, some have a tradition of reading excerpts from novel aloud, for many the tradition of seeing A Christmas Carol done on stage completes the holiday season.

What is it in Charles Dickens’ “Ghostly little book” (as he described it) that so captures our feelings, hopes, and sentiments about this magical time of year? What has woven the characters of Scrooge, Cratchit, and Tiny Tim (to name just a few) throughout the very fabric of this season? Perhaps it stems from our sense of tradition; or from our own need for tradition so frequently felt at this time of year. With over 75 film treatments, stage adaptations numbering in the thousands and 164 years of printing Dickens’ story has shaped our very definition of a traditional holiday season.

Written at a time in England’s history when traditional Christmas celebrations were beginning to disappear, the story managed to revitalize interest in the customary revels of the holiday. Within only the first week of publishing in December of 1843, A Christmas Carol sold over 6,000 copies. Such popularity obviously comes from Dickens’ innate ability to tell an amazing story with such recognizable people. A Christmas Carol borrowed heavily from his own life experiences. The theme of the young boy abandoned to his apprenticeship, the record of the lives of the poverty stricken, even Camden town where the Cratchits reside all come to us directly from Dickens’ first hand knowledge in his early life.

At the core of the story stands Dickens’ concept of an old skinflint who, despite his best efforts, does not lie beyond the earthly (and unearthly) influences of charitable kindness. Scrooge exemplifies the person who has turned his back on Christmas tradition. His “Bah Humbugs!” echo as a rallying cry for all those wanting to avoid the traditional holiday merriment. Dickens’ leaves very little for us to like about such an uncaring and miserly man. And yet—he is redeemed; his eyes are opened to the wonder of the season, he is not only seen as worthy of saving but is saved. Who among us wouldn’t want to believe that if such a man as Scrooge can be shown the power and magic of the Christmas season our own lives might include a happy embrace of that same tradition?

This production of A Christmas Carol offers another addition to the rich history of this tale. We have brought to the stage a celebration of the season that might inspire, educate, entertain and surprise you. To use Dickens’ own words “we have endeavored to raise the Ghost of an Idea” and we hope that it will become part of your own holiday traditions for years to come. Merry Christmas.

—J.W. Morrissette, Director, 1st and 2nd Annual Productions