It started as a gag.
February 2011, and I’ve got a season to schedule. Need something to fill the gap between the one about the Quaker who burns himself to death and the character study of two lost and self-destructive souls in a Bronx bar. A pair of gorgeous, soulful plays that lead us far from despair, deep into love, but hey— there’s no way we’ll convince anybody to see either. Folks love PT for taking risks, but when it comes to buying tickets, most people like what they know. So...
Let’s do A Christmas Carol! The clichéd save-the-theatre selection, the Christmas chestnut of all time. The kind of audacious programming this company’s known for!
And heck, if we’re selling out anyways, how about a one-man-show! It’s all in the imagination, heck, we don’t even need a set, blah blah blah, “theatre magic,” they liked it for Wardrobe (three times), we can sell it again! And there’s no royalty payments, right? The author’s dead. I think. (Check that, Alison. And copyright laws while you’re at it...)
Only, what starts as a gag idea soon enough stops making me gag. Fact is, I love this story – a Dickens show at Theatre Calgary was my theatre epiphany at the age of twelve, a one-man Christmas Carol in a Camrose gymnasium rekindled the spark when I’d fled my calling during my twenties, and a reading for a church basement Christmas party a decade ago kept it in my mind.
And come to think of it, this isn’t such a sentimental choice after all. Dickens was a tough old bird, with a raging social conscience and a fierce sense of justice – supernatural, don’t-mess-with-the-poor, eternal retributive judgment, as a matter of fact. Come to think of it, this one’s pure Pacific Theatre – the glories of language and character, the power of essential Story: choice and consequence, judgment, transformation, redemption, rebirth.
There are two old, old stories that are told at this time of year, two tales that embody the Spirit of Christmas beyond all others. One takes place in a manger, where a God becomes a baby. The other, in the frozen heart of a man who is called on to become...
Well, you know how it plays out. With some stories, knowing the ending spoils everything. But with the best ones, it only adds to the pleasure of the telling.
You know this one. How it ends, and how it begins. Say it along with me. “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that...”
adapted by Ron Reed from the novel by Charles Dickens