Actors and crew members have been hard at work preparing for performances “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.”
The script was adapted by Denise Weatherly-Green from the classic book “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. Weatherly-Green is also directing the play. Its stage management staff includes Assistant Director and Scenic Designer Tate Bivens, Stage Manager Nicki Dempsey and Assistant Stage Managers Tyler Baker and Colin Thomas. The cast features Sean-Riley Cunningham as Jacob Marley, Zach White as Scrooge and Bryson Chalk as Bob Cratchit.
“This version of the play is basically straight from the book, and it translates very well onto the stage,” explained Cunningham. “It’s been beautiful watching such a classic tale that everyone knows come to life and watching some of your closest friends play roles that you’ve known since you were a child. It is a really interesting and really fun experience.”
“It’s a lot of work,” said White, “but it’s also a lot of fun. We are becoming a lot closer to each other, and it’s really cool to work with all these people.”
This is White’s first role in a college play. “I’m extremely excited about it,” he said. “I just love doing the voice so much … It’s just a really fun role. I really love to play caricatures, and [Scrooge] is a really goofy but also kind of mean character.”
“The number-one thing I love about Bob Cratchet is that he just has such a big heart,” said Chalk. “He’s always thinking about other people and what he can do for other people … He’s just nice, and nothing’s going to bring him down, not even poor Tiny Tim or Scrooge.”
“I would say the most challenging part is to not act like a cartoon character on stage, because there are aspects of this that obviously are fairytale – the ghosts and everything like that,” said Cunningham. “Bringing something that people are going to watch and see that you’re really having those emotions, and that you’re really saying things believing that they’re true, while still being a ghost and being wrapped in 100,000 chains – I think that’s probably the most difficult part for me so far.”
“For me, it’s probably having to stay mean,” added White. “I find it so hard to be mean to people, but you’ve really got to reach down and bring out your nastiness. That’s probably one of the biggest obstacles for me.”
Character development has been one of Chalk’s biggest challenges while playing the role of Bob Cratchit. “One thing that I’m really trying to work on is, really, how does he feel about these things that are going on around him? Even though he is a very kind and loving person, what do all these things do to him? Why is he so nice? Even though it’s just a vision in Scrooge’s head when Tiny Tim dies … how would this mess with Cratchit if this really did happen?”
The crew members have their own set of challenges, including packed schedules.
“We try to aim for practicum time every day, which is [from] 2:30 – 5, at least,” explained Dempsey. “I try to come in around 12 or one if I can, on the days that I can. So, all of that, plus at least four hours every night for rehearsal.”
“I’m here everyday from 11:15 to 5:30, and then from 5:30 to 11 o’clock at night,” added Bivens.
According to Dempsey, the stage management crew’s job is to “make sure that [the cast] is doing absolutely everything they need to. We’re kind of the brain and thinktank for [Weatherly-Green].”
“My job as the Assistant Director is basically like the director,” said Bivens. “I just make sure the actors understand … what they’re trying to show the audience. As Scenic Designer … I just sit back and try to pick at the director’s brain about what she wants picture-wise onstage. It allows me to sit down, draw some stuff up, and create and build what you see onstage when you see the show.”
“It’s really interesting and great to be on this side of the fence now and watching the inner clockworks of the production come together,” said Dempsey. “When you are an actor, you think of yourself up onstage and what your character is going through in that current moment. But, as a technician, in any aspect you’re viewing multiple facets. It’s just a great learning experience to be able to really see that connections that go from a light cue, to a sound cue, to a relationship between Marley and Scrooge or Marley and a ghost.”
“Everyone knows how classic a tale this is,” added Baker. “Being in college and seeing all your peers bring these characters to life and seeing a show you watched as a kid – it’s almost like a flashback back to your childhood in getting to have that magic come back to your life. It’s really cool to get to see that come to life onstage and for the audience to get to witness that.”
“It’s awesome to literally see it come to life, starting from the very beginning to the very end, and just getting to work with everybody personally and then all together,” said Thomas. “It’s probably the best part: just seeing it all come together and come to life.”
“I really selected it so that we could offer some Christmas joy to the community,” mentioned Weatherly-Green.
Performances will take place in Wise Auditorium from Nov. 28 – Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. and on Dec. 2 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets will be available in the Box Office starting Nov. 19. Admission is free with TJC student IDs, $10 for adults, and $5 for seniors, students and active members of the military.