Pinning down just what Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is really about and what inspired it may not be as straight-forward as one might think.
Figuring out just who Ebenezer Scrooge is can be more challenging than one might think, too.
“We’ve done productions that focused on Tiny Tim, Bob Crachit, and Scrooge’s ghosts, as well as the story as a musical,” said Clarence Brown Theatre veteran Jed Diamond, who plays Scrooge in this year’s production.
Locally, CBT’s A Christmas Carol is a highlight of the holiday season. “I think this year’s production is the best we have ever done,” said Diamond.
“We have a new production that is really powerful. The set scenes move smoothly with no awkward transitions. And we have a great cast. We have music. But it’s not a musical version. The carols in the play are 19th century carols that would have been sung during the time of the play’s setting. The music is a good balance and interaction with the story, without it coming to a stop for a song.”
Asking just what it is about Ebenezer Scrooge, a character that everyone thinks they already know so well, that attracts a veteran actor to bring the character to life, brought a more complex answer than I expected.
“I love the work it takes to become someone else,” Diamond said. “I love the effort and empathy for a character it takes to transform myself into another person.
“Dickens was not a psychological writer who dug into the mental state of his characters. But he was an acute observer of people. I love getting into the darkness Dickens wrote into Scrooge. The real painful experience he goes through to the redemptive transformation it takes to give the character real meaning.” Diamond said.
“There’s a huge emotional arc in telling the story of Scrooge. There are big life changes that take place in Scrooge that require both emotional and spiritual investments.
“When this play is over, it’s going to take some time for me to decompress,” Diamond said.
Dickens, himself, was so deeply invested in the writing of A Christmas Carol, he paid for the first publication himself. Many think that Dickens saw himself in the character of Bob Crachit. Dickens was a husband and father of a large family. At the time, his wife was pregnant with their fifth child.
His previous books had not made a lot of money. While finances were the initial need to write the story, Dickens was well aware of the horrible conditions of child labor and the grind-it-out existence of many of the working class in England. There wasn’t a lot of joy and happiness in many people’s lives.
The celebration of the Christmas holiday had been diminished for years as some aspects of its pagan origins were under assault in a religious environment that emphasized adherence to rules more than uplifting the spirit. The huge, almost instant success of A Christmas Carol changed all that to the point that Dickens is sometimes credited with saving Christmas.
A Christmas Carol opens with a preview performance Wednesday, Nov. 22. Opening night is Friday, Nov. 24. The play runs through Dec. 17. Show time is 7:30 p.m., with matinee performances at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 26, Sunday, Dec. 3, and Sunday, Dec. 10, which will be the open captioned performance. Deaf Night @ the Theatre, which will be interpreted in American Sign Language will be Tuesday, Dec. 5.
Tickets may be purchased by calling 865-974-5161, online 24/7 at www.clarencegbrownthreatre.com, or at Knoxville Tickets. Tickets for children ages 5-12 are $10. Discounted tickets are available to UT faculty and staff, senior citizens, children and students.