We all know Dickens’ beloved story of A Christmas Carol: miserly old man has a ghostly encounter and turns his life around. Who doesn’t love a good redemption story? This year, however, in the wake of a pandemic, an increasingly shaky democracy, and a global recession driven by corporate greed, I find it especially challenging to believe in Scrooge’s story. Dickens knew what he was doing when he wrote a Christmas story centered on an anti-hero. He knew that his audience, beat down by the inhumane working conditions of the industrial revolution, would also have a hard time placing their hope in someone like Scrooge.
What I discovered in my journey with A Christmas Carol this year is that this Dickensian community’s joy is not at the mercy of Scrooge, it never was. The love and hope that we encounter in A Christmas Carol is alive and well all around Scrooge, in spite of him. In this community, we find an invitation, mercifully extended to Scrooge, to participate in that communal good. This discovery transformed my approach to staging this year’s production of A Christmas Carol. I became curious about the role that the ensemble plays. To me, the ensemble represents the community of people who never stopped believing in the malleability of the human heart. They find joy in the darkest of places; yes, they know that the world needs to be changed, but they invite Scrooge to be a part of that change for his own sake. You see, from Dickens’ perspective, the character suffering most deeply in this story is Scrooge himself. Instead of letting Scrooge slip away into a lonely oblivion, the characters in Dickens’ story give him one last chance; and the great miracle is that he takes it.
My prayer for this Christmas season is that we can give each other the gift of believing in the goodness of our neighbor again, especially the one we find most miserly.
Amelia Peterson (Director) began her directing career as a teenager at Bearden High School under the wing of Knoxville legend, Leann Dickson, who would often pull Amelia offstage to ask her opinion about staging and visual storytelling. Local directing credits include Every Brilliant Thing (River & Rail Theatre Co.), and The Unusual Tale of Mary & Joseph’s Baby (River & Rail Theatre Co. – 2016, 2017, 2018). New York City: Morbid Poetry at the Incubator Arts Project; Long, Long Ago with Firebone Theatre Company; Apt 3E Director’s Lab Series with Molly Murphy. Washington, DC: Kennedy Center’s Page to Stage Festival; Inkwell Theatre’s Showcase Reading Series. Film credits include Ghostlight (co-director), and Whipoorwill (screenwriter). Amelia is a co-founder of River & Rail Theatre Company, a mother to three awesome kids, and a partner to her favorite person, Joshua Peterson. She wants to thank Casey Sams, Kate Buckley and the incredible creators at the Clarence Brown Theatre for taking a chance on her.