“The Concise Dickens’ Christmas Carol”—Season Four
(This is the press release I prepared for my upcoming Christmas show.)
“The Concise Dickens’ Christmas Carol,” a one-act, one-person dramatization of the Charles Dickens’ seasonal classic, has been cut loose from its natal home.
After three years of holiday residence at Norfolk’s 40th Street Stage, where it was first performed in 2006, the “Concise Carol,” adapted and performed by Norfolk actor and writer D.D. Delaney, was forced to find other venues for its 2009 revival after the theater’s decision late last summer to close at the end of October.
Originally, the show was scheduled for eight performances this season at 40th Street. With three additional bookings—two churches and a retirement community—Delaney looked forward to his busiest season yet.
When those plans collapsed, he and his wife, Jala Magik, scrambled to fill his suddenly-empty December calendar. With friends and other contacts to guide them, they booked fourteen performances in a variety of venues, making a total of seventeen—the most exposure the show has had to date.
This year’s revised schedule includes four performances at Norfolk’s Venue on 35th Street, Dec. 11, 12, and 22 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 13 at 4 p.m. A benefit performance in support of GI rights and advocacy is also scheduled on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. at Norfolk OffBase.
Additional performances open to the public will be held at three area churches: Christ United Methodist Church, Norfolk, on Dec. 1 at 10:30 a.m., sponsored by Young at Heart; the Fellowship of the Inner Light, Virginia Beach, on Dec. 6 at 2 p.m., and the Living Waters Sanctuary at Eastern Shore Chapel, Virginia Beach, on Dec. 18 at 8 p.m.
Delaney will also perform his piece live on Moon, Moo & You, a blog-talk internet radio show, on Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. The program can be accessed at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/kate-loving-joan-adams and will be available on demand after the broadcast.
Rounding out the schedule are performances at private parties, retirement communities, and nursing home facilities, several booked through Tidewater Arts Outreach, a non-profit agency which connects performers with audiences in cooperating institutions.
Delaney, a native of Lancaster, PA, moved to Hampton Roads in 1994. In 2005, encouraged by Rev. Frances Cooper, pastor of Courthouse Community United Methodist Church, he set about adapting the original Dickens’ novella, a task for which he felt well qualified, having previously acted in seven productions of A Christmas Carol, including five turns in the lead role of Ebenezer Scrooge between 1990 and 2000.
“I felt all the productions I’d seen and acted in got too long and unfocused,” says Delaney. “Yet always at the core there’s this powerfully dramatic story of seasonal redemption, and I think that’s what keeps people coming back to it year after year. I wanted to extract that dramatic core from all the fluff and distraction and present it in a compact package on the bet that it would work for an audience, that people would leave the performance feeling they’d gotten their annual Christmas Carol fix, that they didn’t necessarily need any more.”
And because the story is so familiar to audiences, Delaney notes, “it was pretty simple to adapt. I didn’t need any exposition to identify the characters. Everyone knows who they are—Scrooge, Marley, Bob Cratchit, Fezziwig, Tiny Tim, the Christmas ghosts. All I had to do was bring them onstage and let them do their thing. The only rule I made for myself was to remain absolutely faithful to Dickens’ language and plot line.”
In Delaney’s version he portrays twenty-two characters, including a narrator, yet he relies on no props or costume extras. His only set piece is a stool. “That makes the show quite portable,” he says. “I can perform it practically anywhere and load it into a site by myself in one trip from my car.”
And with his years of experience behind him, not even learning the lines was as difficult as it might have been if the material had not been so familiar.
The real challenge, he says, is the acting itself—portraying credible characterizations while making split-second transitions between them without muddying their necessary distinctions.
“I’ve had to stretch my ‘instrument’ a bit,” he admits, “to find different vocal registers, adopt different body types and facial molds, and switch back and forth among them in an instant. I’m still finding new aspects to the characters, fine-tuning their emotional qualities, even with Scrooge. After all, many of these characters have practically become mythological figures, yet they’ve still got to come across as real, flesh-and-blood human beings. Fortunately, Dickens is such a great writer that there seems no end of treasure you can find to bring out of his characters.”
That challenge is what keeps Delaney’s interest in his show alive as he prepares for his fourth season.
“When the day comes when I feel I’m phoning this stuff in,” he says, “I’ll stop. Until then, so long as my body holds up, I expect I’ll always have a job at Christmas, no matter what happens with the economy.”