New York City playwright Greg Oliver Bodine remembers sitting in his living room as a child around Christmas time, watching the 1951 movie Scrooge starring Alastair Sim as the crotchety Victorian businessman, on his old black-and-white television.
“He has always been my favorite of the Scrooges,” Bodine says. “The movie was a pretty faithful adaption to the story and it’s always resonated with me.”
Fast forward a few decades and Bodine sees the influence of that film in his current one-man show of Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, which he is performing at the Athenaeum in Alexandria for one night, Dec. 12.
“I’ve been doing this one-man performance since 2003 thanks to a grant from the Long Island Arts Council and NYSCA,” Bodine says. “I had seen a teacher of mine do a solo version and I loved the story. Plus, I was intrigued with the challenge of doing this as a one-man show. I had never done that before and I thought this would be a good vehicle to start out with.”
Not that it was easy. In his first year, it took him a solid two months to get all the lines down for each and every character, and there was a bit more ad-libbing because of it.
“The biggest challenge for me when I first started adapting it was how to keep the story active and engaging for a live audience and at the same time keeping as much of Dickens’ language in tact as possible. There’s so much exposition,” he says. “Part of the conceit is that I am Charles Dickens and I have arrived late for a reading and I’ve lost my luggage and I am forced to perform the story from memory, so it’s Dickens playing all the characters.”
Directed by Shana Solomon and stage managed by Laura Schlachtmeyer, the one-man play is based on the condensed version Dickens himself used on his historic reading tours of the U.S.
December 12, 2015
201 Prince St,
Alexandria, VA 22314
Tickets: $15 – $20
Details and Tickets
With a dozen years of doing the show behind him, Bodine notes that the secret to keeping it fresh is to break that fourth wall.
“The audience is very much involved and you never know what you’re going to get from any particular house at any performance, so that’s what keeps it interesting,” he says. “It’s a story I never get tired of telling. It has a very uplifting message, and I get sentimental around the holidays and I really enjoy sharing it. It’s a terrific story full of hope and redemption and universal in scope.”
There’s no shortage of Christmas Carols in our area this holiday season, and Bodine feels that it’s one of the great classics that people enjoy seeing again and again.
“It resonates with so many because it’s a beautifully crafted tale and universal in its message,” he says. “It deals with very human issues of fellowship. Jacob Marley even says ‘charity, mercy, forgiveness,’ and for me, beyond just doing the show, it always seems to make me reflect on the year, and I think that’s true with many people.”
Still, Bodine goes into every performance with the belief that at least one member of the audience hasn’t ever seen A Christmas Carol or read the story, and he sees his show as a wonderful way to introduce new people to the work. And for those who are familiar, he just hopes they give in to the power of the season.
“The show always puts me in holiday mood and I would like to think it does for many people who come and see it. I think people will walk away from this show with a renewed and invigorated appreciation for the holidays,” he says. “The best way to describe it is that it’s reaffirming. There have been some horrible things happening in the world, and doing this show kind of reaffirms my belief in forgiveness and hope and redemption.”
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