A Timeless Classic, A Christmas Carol, Gets a New Stage and a New Spin

Paul Morella takes his rendition of A Christmas Carol from The Arts Barn Theater to the Olney Theatre Center.

Last year during the holidays The Arts Barn Theater hosted Paul Morella's one-person rendition of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.

This year, Morella's production is going on-stage at The Olney Theatre Center's Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab on December 16 and will be running until January 1, 2011.

"The one-person format hones theater to its essence. It strips away the artifice and gets to the pulse of the story and characters. The audience begins to experience the story at human scale and even embrace some of the darker elements of this morality tale," said Morella in an interview.

He describes the play as a mix of theater and story-telling. During performances, he switches between the role of narrator and that of the characters.

"I don't play Dickens," he says. "Dickens just provides great characterization, and I let the narrator become the characters."

When working on the production for The Arts Barn Theater with Theater Director, Jeff Westlake, Morella tinkered with the performance and made adjustments as he went along. The play was fine-tuned during rehearsals, and the Morella-Westlake collaboration left traditional preconceptions about Dickens's classic at the door.

"Jeff encouraged experimentation, provided a second pair of eyes and an audience. You learn a lot from having an audience. He went above and beyond the call of duty when working with me on tweaking my show," said Morella.

Morella's version of "A Christmas Carol" calls into question the notion of a beloved, Christmas classic. It directly engages the audience in a self-reflective process through a recasting of Dickens.

"The imagination is far more powerful than what we can see. I want to stay true to Dickens's original text, his vivid prose and imagery, and the audience can fill in the rest," said Morella.

Dickens's "A Chrismas Carol," subtitled, "A Ghost Story of Christmas" by the author himself is not a story for the faint of heart, according to Morella.

"Dickens had an appreciation for the poor. The poor are not to be pitied. They always rise above their station and make the most of what they have. Tiny Tim never feels sorry for himself."

At opening, Morella plans to greet audience members as they walk into the theater, and the set will transport them into a hazy Victorian household, where everyone is bound to recognize the Scrooge in him/herself at some point during the performance.

In the preface of the original 1843 edition of "A Christmas Carol," Dickens wrote:

"I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it."

Morella wishes the same for his audience. An open mind and a willingness to participate and reflect on the meaning of this time of year for everyone, even those who do not celebrate Christmas, is what is in order. This play promises to tickle the imagination and resonate with the individual as its protagonist looks in the mirror and artfully explores the inner-depths of every character in the story.

Morella's "A Christmas Carol" is playing Wednesday-Sunday at 1:00, 3:00 or 7:00 pm at the Olney Theatre Center. Jim Petosa, Artistic Director, is supervising its production. 

To find out more about The Olney Theatre Center and purchase tickets go to: http://www.olneytheatre.org/ 


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