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Just about everybody is familiar with Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol.
It’s hard not to be. The novella has been made into plays, films, musicals, radio plays, operas, and television specials. Scrooge has been a man, a woman, a duck, a Smurf, Mr. Magoo, Yosemite Sam, and Oscar the Grouch, among others.
But imagine Scrooge played by Dickens? How about Bob Cratchit played by Dickens? Or the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future?
Charles Dickens loved to perform, and one of the many ways he used his boundless energy was in giving public readings, and playing the different characters. His first public reading was A Christmas Carol.
If I could time travel, I’d like to be in the audience of one of those readings. The day after Thanksgiving, I came close. At Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA,
on the same stage where Charles Dickens appeared in 1868, his great-great-grandson, Gerald Charles Dickens,* gave a one-man performance of A Christmas Carol.
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Our lives are about technology. We’re used to super-duper special effects, enhancing and sometimes entirely usurping the place of humans in films and TV. Here was one man on a stage performing a work written 170 years ago. Minimal props and little in the way of costume changes. Yet I discerned no signs of restlessness or impatience. No ring tones playing. No audience chatter. There was laughter and tears (yes, I wept over Tiny Tim), but above all there was rapt attention. He had the audience captivated—much, I imagined, as his great-great grandfather must have done when buildings like the Mechanics Hall were brand new.
For Mr. Dickens’s angle on his performance, the venue, and the story of his great-great-grandfather’s 1868 appearance, please scroll down this entry of his blog.
This is part of a tour, and you might find a performance near you by looking at the 2013 Dickens Performance Schedule here. He’ll be appearing at, among other places, Winterthur Museum and Colonial Williamsburg, two sites popular with the Two Nerdy History Girls.
*Not the only talented descendant. See here and here.