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Theater by the Grove will present the Christmas classic, “A Christmas Carol,” Dec. 3-8.
This rendition, however, hosts many surprises and a rather young cast – the roles of Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit both being played by freshmen. The cast also utilizes puppetry to tell Scrooge’s story of redemption.
“Our version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is different than any other renditions I have seen,” said Nicholas Tyson (freshman, anthropology), who plays old man Scrooge. “Since we are utilizing puppets for some of the characters, except for Scrooge, Cratchit and a few others, I originally thought this show would be played out in a purely humoristic childlike fashion.
“Unlike any other puppet show, it incorporates the classic feel of a serious Victorian-era drama, as well as the silly humor of puppetry.”
Opposite of Scrooge, Grant Hoogstraten (freshman, theater) plays the role of Bob Cratchit. He explained how interacting with puppets has been a definite challenge for him.
“I’m constantly tempted to respond to the actor behind the puppet, and learning to act with the puppets has been very interesting,” Hoogstraten said.
Tyson said he considered working with puppets a “huge obstacle.” He had never before done a production with puppets.
“There are all sorts of rules that had been previously unknown to me when working in a puppet rendition of a show – various do’s and don’ts that have both limited and expanded my actions and interactions toward them,” Tyson said. “It was very hard to ingrain them into my acting.”
What makes this production of “A Christmas Carol” different from other versions is not just the fact that they incorporate puppetry but also that rather than just acting out the storyline, this production features a group of Londoners telling the tale. This allows the audience to see how the story feels from a different point of view and also how it affects those other people’s lives.
Both actors said they had difficulties in relating to their characters.
“Learning to play Bob Cratchit has been pretty difficult for me; he and I aren’t very similar, so really getting a feel for him has been challenging,” Hoogstraten said. “Nothing can keep Bob Cratchit down. He has this sort of resilience and optimism about him that I think is just amazing.”
Tyson said he’d thought that because “A Christmas Carol” is such a popular and pervasive staple of the holidays in today’s society, and after having seen Scrooge portrayed over and over again in films and on television, playing the role would be a piece of cake.
“It wasn’t until I actually started experimenting with how he walked and how he talked that it became really clear that finding the exact way to portray his negativity would be hard work,” Tyson said.
And for Hoogstraten, in a way, this is a production that has come full circle: “I was in ‘A Christmas Carol’ once when I was six years old; I was Tiny Tim and absolutely loved it.”
“The one thing I want the public to know about this production is that it will be epic,” Tyson said. “A classic Victorian drama fused with the childlike yet powerful actions of puppetry makes our rendition of ‘A Christmas Carol’ a must-see for all ages. It will have you laughing, crying and filled with holiday cheer. It is truly in itself a masterful work of art.”
The show is running Dec. 3-7 at 8 p.m. in Waller Hall with a matinee Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. Tickets are priced at $14 for regular admission, $12 for senior citizens or groups of 15 or more and $9 for I-Card holders, students and children.