On stage, a cowering Ebenezer Scrooge is arguing with the transparent image of his dead business partner and only friend, Jacob Marley. Considered successful but heartless in his business practices, Marley appeared before Scrooge, draped in the chains he forged in life, hoping that his friend won’t follow and make the same mistakes. “Tonight, you will be haunted by three spirits,” Marley warned. “Without these visits, you cannot hope to shun this path I tread.”
A Christmas Carol, last performed on campus in 2016, places the audience in London, 1843. In the famous story by Charles Dickens, adapted for the stage by John Jakes, the people of London are eagerly looking forward to Christmas Day, save one man—Ebenezer Scrooge. The Fine Arts Series production, directed by Liz Thomason, follows the miserly Scrooge as Christmases Past, Present, and Future show how his selfishness and solitude has directly affected those around him, offering a chance to change.
“This story is incredibly layered with so many little subplots and threads weaving throughout the production,” Liz Thomason explained. “Even if the audience doesn’t catch all the little details, the cast has had so much fun crafting connections between characters.”
Students auditioned for A Christmas Carol during the 2021 spring semester. Over the last several months, lines were learned, characterization created, and stage blocking mapped. While the cast focused on their own preparations, stage crew, costumes, lights, and sound built and crafted the world they would perform in.
“Every rehearsal was different,” said Michael McIntyre (Jr., GA), who portrayed a younger Scrooge of Christmas past. “You came to rehearsal and noticed that a set piece now has a roof, or the backdrop got painted, or more texturing was done on a set piece. It was always exciting to see the work that had been done from rehearsal to rehearsal. The actors were also always looking for new and better ways to interpret their characters and convey emotion. No two rehearsals were the same, and that’s what kept things interesting for the cast and crew.”
“I really enjoyed both working with old friends and making new friends in this cast,” said Lauren Adams (Jr., MI). “I felt so much support from the cast, and I loved the time we spent praying for each other and encouraging each other every rehearsal.”
Sharing the stage with students, staff and faculty have treasured opportunities to be part of Fine Arts productions. “I have always enjoyed acting,” said Dr. James Ridgley, a natural sciences faculty member who reprised his role as the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present. “It is a cathartic release for me, and I have always wanted to play the Ghost of Christmas Present. This ghost, I feel, is really the lynchpin of all the other ghosts. Trying to show Scrooge that what you do now is not dependent upon the past, but it can shape your future.”
“Getting to work with the other cast members has been the single biggest reason I keep coming back to be in more shows,” said performing arts faculty Jacob Van Hall, who played the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. “I love getting to meet the up and coming faces on campus as well as hang out with old friends from previous productions. I’ve had the similar privilege of being able to watch the other members of the cast step into their respective scenes and take full ownership of their own pieces of the story. It’s tons of fun to work with people as dedicated and invested as they are.”
PCC staff Lydia Van Hall (Performance Studies ’18) played the ethereal Ghost of Christmas Past. “Her physicality was challenging for me. The Ghost of Christmas Past had to be constantly moving to emulate the wind or mist-like appearance and to show off that fabulous costume. Finding the right balance so I wasn’t a distraction was difficult,” she shared. Lydia also appreciated the opportunity to act alongside her brother. “This is the first time we have both had a lead part in the same play, and it was a blast! It’s a special experience to act with a sibling.”
For this year’s rendition of the production, Scene Shop manufactured a myriad of special effects. From moving portraits to self-opening doors, audiences were stunned by the spectacle of Scrooge’s eerie visitors. “You have to be thinking through effects from day one of pre-production,” said Liz Thomason. “Then they have to be worked into the set, costumes, props, lighting, and interpretation. I’ve been thinking about some of these concepts for well over a year. I purposely kept details from the cast because I didn’t want secrets to get out and because I wanted to enjoy their reactions when they finally experience the effect.”
“The Ghost of Christmas Future was definitely our most challenging [special effect],” said Ben Davis, Scene Shop manager. “We had to create a 20-foot-tall puppet that appeared from nowhere, interacted with Scrooge, moved across the stage, and then disappeared. Each time we tackled one issue, another couple issues would come up that we had to work out, but the final effect was well worth all the effort.”
With the end of the semester around the corner, students will soon be home to celebrate Christmas with their own families. “I hope that the students will be excited about this Christmas break,” said Lydia Van Hall. “Christmas is a beautiful time to remember past joys, make memories with the people you love, and make choices about the next year with a new perspective. We could all be a little more like Scrooge in that way.”