Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Christmas Carol—Battle Ground High School—Battle Ground, WA

A Tale of Redemption

This production is a world premiere, adapted and directed by Stephan “Cash” Henry from the classic novel by Charles Dickens.  It is playing at their auditorium at the school, SW 3rd Ave. & Main St. in Battle Ground, through November 21st.   For tickets, go to

I was unable to see this production because of the terrible storms we had but I think it does deserve a preview, as it’s an original adaptation and this high school’s drama department and its teacher/director, Henry, show merit that goes far beyond “typical” high school plays and is a terrific training ground for young adults.  I, myself, have even written a rather more traditional adaptation, doing it as a full-stage and readers theatre production, to this story and even played Cratchit, myself, in a college production many moons ago.

This immortal tale has been rendered countless times in movies, TV, animated versions, on stage, a musical, and in a one-man show.  Alaister Sim (the best), George C. Scott, Reginald Owens, Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo), Henry Winkler, Sterling Hayden, Albert Finney, Bill Murray, Jim Carrey, et. al. have all played various incarnations of the infamous, Scrooge.

Everyone has a story…of who they were…who they are now…and who they might become.  Scrooge has the enviable task of being able to go back and relive highlights of his life in a brief span of time and then makes changes accordingly.  Make no doubt about it, he is a mean, miserly, spoiled, spiteful old man who needs a good spanking rather than a second chance.  But this is not a tale of revenge and punishment but of forgiveness and redemption.  It is, by all accounts, a true Christmas story, about the birth of Hope.  Not unlike the original, true story, of 2,000 years ago, or even the old myth of Pandora’s Box, where she released all the evils unto the earth but managed to keep Hope contained.

But as the director/adapter, Henry, puts it:

Writing this adaptation was one of the great joys of my life in the theater. I hadn’t realized the amount of time and effort that goes into something as seemingly simple as an adaptation.

I wanted to better understand Ebenezer Scrooge as a person, not just as a character. He is, to me, a dystopian everyman, and person who seems to live in his own chosen world that exists in darkness and complete lack of hope, surrounded by people who find hope in the darkest of moments. He has everything the quintessential “happy” person should have: plenty of money, people around him who care about him (his nephew Fred to name just one), he owns his own business and does well for himself, and yet he is deeply sad and alone of his own choosing. I wanted to delve further into how he became this way, because just as I believe that no one is born evil, I believe that no one is born unhappy. We all have the choice to either fall into the depths of despair or rise above the challenges we are faced with and soldier on. Why did fall? How does he rise again? I wasn’t trying to improve Dickens story, as I think it truly is a classic tale of the fall and rise of a man, but I wanted to accentuate the depth of this man, and the boy who was lost and found within him. I wanted to love Ebenezer Scrooge as a person, not just like him as a character.

And, as the original story goes, when we first visit Ebenezer Scrooge (Brendan Groat) he has spurned some charity seekers (Reagan Joner), his own nephew, Fred (Thomas Rismoen) and even his sole clerk, Bob Cratchit (Andre Roy).  His place in society is locked, until a visit from old partner, Jacob Marley (Artagnan Ricardo), now a ghost, who warns him of dire consequences in the afterlife if he doesn’t change his ways.

He then is visited by three spirits, the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Denise Luschenko), Present (Sarah Wren) and the Future (Bailey Baxter).  The first one gives him a peek at his past as a Young Man (Skyler Denfeld) with his loving sister, Fan (Sierra Dumont), mother of his nephew, Fred, now deceased, and old Fezziwig (Spencer Ridgeway), a generous employer.  And, of course, his true love, dear Belle (Cassidy MacAdam), who he cast aside for the pursuit of wealth.

The second spirit shows him the present, with the joy of the Cratchit family, his wife (Madison Gardner), their children, Peter (Braeden Miller), Martha (Trinity Weaver), Belinda (Louise Larsen) and the ailing, Tiny Tim (Jerrin King) and the gayness of his nephew and kin (Anneke Kincaid), at this festive season of the year.  The third, from a time yet-to-come, has his spoils being divided up by the “street” people, Old Joe (Jaden Denfeld), Ms. Dilber (Jamie Allen) and Ms. Belkin (Emily Vaught), and points to doom and gloom for Tiny Tim, the youngest of Bob’s children, and Scrooge’s own forgotten demise.

He vows then to keep Christmas in his heart all year round and make use of his wealth for the good of others.  Of course, one wonders what has happened to Belle after all these years and why his hatred of Fred, his nephew, who is, after all, his beloved Fan’s son.  But, perhaps, these are stories for another time.

I would recommend seeing this show as, although it is rushing the Season a bit, but you will find yourself transported to another time and be impressed by the talents of this group.  A cast of about 20 play more than twice that many in characters, too.  Quite a feat for even a more seasoned company.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.


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