Tag Archives: A Christmas Carol

Ghost Encounters of a Third Kind

Three ghosts. One actor. Don Pugh reflects on his multiple identities in this weekend’s A Christmas Carol.

Diplomatically, Don Pugh admits that he is not necessarily drawn to one ghost over another.  The fact that he is playing Marley’s Ghost, the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Ghost of Christmas Present in Intrepid’s upcoming staged reading of A Christmas Carol is more “a heck of a lot of fun” than anything perplexing.  Still, Don did have a few reservations in determining his interpretation of each spirit.

“I didn’t want to go too far,” says Don.  “It’s important not to take away from Dickens’ story.”

While casting one actor as the three main ghosts helps to keep the cast size down, director Brian Mackey saw some wisdom in the choice as well.  In short, he was eager to capitalize on Don’s talents and admits that this actor has some great insights into the spirits who set the stage for Scrooge’s transformation.

“The challenge is in portraying the Ghost of Christmas Past,” says Brian, who also adapted the script, along with fellow actress Rachel van Wormer.  In truth, Dickens is a touch vague in his depiction of this particular spirit, and Brian and Rachel – in an effort to remain true to the story – tried to translate descriptions such as “like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man” and “from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light” into something workable.  Enter Don Pugh, who admittedly portrays this character “differently than anyone else.”  How exactly?  We will have to wait for the reading to find out if there will actually be a flame-head on stage.

“There are engrained and established preconceptions about Marley’s Ghost and The Ghost of Christmas Present already,” says Pugh.  “Past is the only enigma.”

Don is happy to be able to illuminate Dickens’ words, commenting on the ability of Brian and Rachel’s adaptation to let them flow, changing them as little as possible.  He also feels that the play captures the mysticism of the time in which it was written, when the hauntings of spirits would not necessarily be a  supernatural tale, but a cautionary one.

“People thought they had these spirits about them,” says Don of his research.  “It was a dark time, literally and figuratively.”

While he has played The Ghost of Christmas Present once before, this is the first time he has taken on these multiple roles.  It was the variety of the parts that drew him to the challenge, and is also what he has had the most fun with so far.

“But it’s the words of Dickens that are the most important,” says Don, underlining Intrepid’s mission to use the text as the primary source of inspiration and interpretation.  And what story do these particular words tell?

“The beauty of Christmas to lighten up people’s lives,” Don says simply.

With or without a flame-head remains to be seen.  — T.T.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, adapted by Brian Mackey and Rachel van Wormer, will be performed as a staged reading at the Encinitas Library, Saturday December 14, 5:30 pm reception, 6:00 pm reading.  RSVP at boxoffice@intrepidshakespeare.com. $15.


A Haunt for the Holidays

Ron Choularton as Scrooge

A conversation with Scrooge and Scribe about Intrepid’s upcoming holiday staged reading…

A Christmas Carol is absolutely a ghost story.” Brian Mackey is emphatic as he describes his new adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless story, co-written with fellow San Diego actor Rachel van Wormer. Brian will also be directing.

“Even Dickens points out that fact in the introduction,” explains Brian. “He refers to it a ‘Christmas ghost story.'”

But audiences shouldn’t be worried. Revealing some of the darkness of the tale is just one of the gifts of adapting the story word for word from Dickens – a gift that develops more and more deeply throughout the play.

“The language really is beautiful,” says Brian. “And this version is literally Charles Dickens onstage.”

While Brian and Rachel’s adaptation doesn’t shy away from some of the darker moments of this tale, it is also very clear about the theme of the story: the transformative and giving spirit of the season.

Brian Mackey directs, shown above in Hamlet with Jennifer Eve Thorn. Photo: Daren Scott

“I think that’s why people come back to it again and again and why it’s appropriate for the holidays,” says Brian. “We are able to witness one man’s transformation from a curmudgeon to someone lighthearted.  It’s a touching, powerful story of a man changing his life.”

So powerful, in fact, they knew it was necessary to find the right actor to handle Scrooge – both in the dark times as well as in the light. Not everyone can be convincing at both ends of the story.

The choice turned out to be simple one. Ron Choularton has been discovering and rediscovering this tale since childhood, when English television used to air it every Christmas Eve, featuring Alastair Sim.  To date, he has played a part in 28 performances and readings of A Christmas Carol.

“There was a time when I was yearning to get old enough to play Scrooge,” says Ron of his days as Marley’s Ghost and Bob Crachit.

What keeps drawing him to this tale?

“As sad as Scrooge is in the beginning of his journey, there is just as much joy at the end. It’s a joyful thing. To see someone really change and change for the better – it’s one of the most uplifting things to see in your life,” says Ron. He adds, “It’s the story of a second chance – one that most people never get.”

To that end, Ron is charged with the task of creating the horrible, penny-pnching, and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and leading the audience through this transformative journey. He feels that Dickens is right not to shy away from the darkness that weighs on Scrooge in the opening scenes.

“It’s a fable,” he says. “Everyone in Scrooge’s life has left him, so his love of money is really about his fears of abandonment.  The ghosts are teachers and their job is to scare the you-know-what out of Scrooge. Gradually, he realizes these things he’s forgotten about and forgotten to do. The transformation from darkness to light is not something that should be taken lightly.”

Brian agrees. “There is also an urgency about that journey,” he says. “Marley is basically saying, ‘You have tonight to save your soul.'”

Despite the grave themes present in the story, both Scrooge and scribe are confident that audiences of all ages will enjoy the performance. “There is some really funny stuff in there,” says Ron. “It is an amazing thing to see children who are affected by the story.”

Something tells us that Scrooge won’t be the only one transformed by the end of the night. — T.T.

A Christmas Carol, directed by Brian Mackey, adapted by Brian Mackey and Rachel van Wormer, and featuring Ron Choularton as Ebenezer Scrooge, plays on Saturday, December 14 at 530 pm at the Encinitas Library, 540 Cornish Dr.