Irresistibly Contagious

“…There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as
laughter and good-humour.”
–Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol 

“Marley was dead: to begin with.”  So begins the Christmas story that has been enjoyed by millions for more than 160 years.  It was 1843, the height of the Victorian era, when Charles Dickens published his little novella about how the spirit of Christmas transformed the life of a curmudgeonly Londoner, Ebenezer Scrooge.  Based largely on Dickens’ own sad childhood, his concern for the social conditions of the day, and a longing for the festive celebrations of Christmas past, the author’s best-known work took only six weeks to complete.

Since that time, A Christmas Carol has remained in print continuously and has been adapted for the stage, film, opera, ballet and just about every other medium possible. Is there any Christmas story more beloved than that of the change in Scrooge’s cold, miserly heart, wrought through his encounters with the ghost of Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future?

Beginning December 6, the Sumter Little Theatre presents a twist on the holiday classic with the 1991 adaptation of A Christmas Carol by California playwright Doris Baizley, directed by Eric Bultman.  Presented as a “play within a play,” this version breathes rollicking new life into the cherished old tale. 

In Baizley’s interpretation, a traveling group of actors are only hours away from curtain time when suddenly, they find themselves with no Scrooge (“Bah!  Humbug!”) and no Tiny Tim–the actors are gone.  So, how do they present A Christmas Carol with two of the most important characters missing?

As every performer knows, improvisation may be the most important skill one can bring to the stage.  In this case, that means seizing the stage manager and a prop boy, dressing them in character, sending them onto the boards and hoping for the best.  The result, as described by on the Sumter Little Theatre website, is “a magical world of make-believe.  The…troupe proceeds to make their way through the tale, creating fog, snow, fire and ghosts through mime, imagination and wonderful visual effects.  The ragtag players quickly become the characters of the story, and we are pulled into the life of Ebenezer Scrooge.”

This unique presentation reduces the story to its bare elements, with minimal scenery and a great deal of inventiveness required of both the actors and audience (for example, Marley’s Ghost’s infamous chain does not appear, but has to be conjured in the viewer’s imagination).  As the Sumter Little Theatre continues its annual tradition of presenting a holiday-themed play (for a photo gallery of past productions,  please click here), A Christmas Carol is bound to be joyous and impressive.  Performances will be held December 6-9 and 13-16, 2012Thursday and Friday night performances begin at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday performances are at 8 p.m., and Sunday matinees on December 9 and 16 start at 3 p.m.  Admission is $15 for adults; student (price:  $8), senior (price:  $10) and military discounts are available.  The Sumter Little Theatre is located at 14 Mood Avenue.  Reservations are strongly recommended.  For more info or to reserve your tickets, please call the SLT Box Office at (803) 775-2150, Monday through Friday between 3 and 6 p.m.

Still haven’t got enough of Scrooge for the season?  The 1951 film version of A Christmas Carol will be showing on December 14 at the Sumter Opera House (21 North Main Street).  Doors open at 6:30 p.m.; the films begin at 7 o’clock (and you don’t want to miss the vintage cartoon reels at the beginning).  Admission is $2.50 per person, with proceeds benefiting the Sumter County Library’s children’s programs.

Also, please remember that these events are only a couple of the many taking place throughout the Sumter community in the coming weeks.  For a more complete listing–and a downloadable brochure–please click here

A Christmas Carol has spawned numerous quotes appropriate to the holiday season (and throughout the year).  There are many more well-known, but for now, I’d like leave you with this one:

 “For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas.”

 Happy holidays!!!

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