Charles Dickens wrote to change England.
(If you don't want to read, just check out the video trailer to my next show.)
And he did, many times, in many ways, with many stories. He wrote truth to power — felling abusive institutions and unkind traditions.
A Christmas Carol, for example, changed employers' denial of a day off for a major holiday. The wealthy industrialists of mid-19th century England stood on the backs of a working poor. And those poor, those who were fortunate enough to be working, were working endless hours for sub-poverty wages.
But This Isn't About Them Back Then.
Dickens cared for his British society, but — for us, here, now — that's merely a quaint moment in history.
When we hear the title, "A Christmas Carol," we smilingly recall the characters — Scrooge, Cratchit, and Tiny Tim — and the story of the three ghosts. But the story is stuck in its time: coated with 150+ years of literary dust and bestowed our deserving love and respect.
But Dickens didn't write A Christmas Carol to be an old story. He wrote it to change England.
So, Can We Use It To Change Us, Here, Now?
Frankly, A Christmas Carol isn't — as I see it — really about Christmas. It's about being human, including developing the ability to engage with others.
It's like the Bible: old stories about them, back then. They become powerful only when we relate to those stories. We have to make them about us, here, now.
This is the secret to the Passover Seder, and possibly the reason Jews do disproportionately well in Hollywood. We have learned to tell an old story — Exodus — to our children every year at Passover in a way that it is newly relevent to us, so that we address our own bondage (to wealth, to work, to whatever) and the bondage of those around us — and cause our own redemption.
We tell Exodus as if it is about us, here, now.
And That's What We're Doing With A Christmas Carol
The playwrights and actors (I'm one of both) recognize that our friends and neighbors are all too often disappointed with the year-end holidays. Why is that? Are expectations not met?
Or is it because we disengage with our true, current passions during the holidays — as we try to recreate the passions of our past.
We seek — with this show — to encourage audiences, upon leaving the theatre, to approach the holidays mindfully, with intention: to engage with others, to teach our children, to know who we are.
No matter what holiday we each choose to embrace.
The basics: Riffe Center's Studio Two Theatre for five days only starting December 8th. Details about the show (tickets, times, dates) are at XMASwithArtie.com.
In the meantime, enjoy this brief video trailer which shows scenes from last year's premiere. (Last year's audiences made many suggestions — and the play is, as a result, about 25% new).
Co-written by Matt Slaybaugh, Sean Christopher Lewis and me. Directed by Matt Slaybaugh.
Showtimes, ticketing and other show details are here: XMASwithArtie.com. Feel free to contact me with any questions.