Kids delighted by “A Christmas Carol” at Fairfield Library
(Appeared on Fairfield Citizen news’ website 11/22)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.
Fairfield, CT – Shrieks of delight and sassy comments spilled from the peanut gallery squatting on the floor at a lively, interactive performance of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, “A Christmas Carol.”
The hour-long, informal show was held in an upstairs meeting room at Fairfield Public Library, 1080 Old Post Road, mid-afternoon Saturday Nov. 20. It was presented by Alex Jacobs and Sarah Bedard of the New Hampshire-based Hampstead Stage Co. The duo played all of the leading characters in full costume in front of a simple set constructed to look like Ebenezer Scrooge’s lending office. The tale was modified to appeal to an audience of 6 to 8 year olds and their parents.
Barbara Hawkins, the Library’s Head of Children’s Services, provided an introduction, noting that this is the fourth year that the group has played the space. She let children know that a question-and-answer session would follow, then the performers launched right into their act.
Jacobs, dressed as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, opened the show and immediately began interacting with young audience members, whom he encouraged to move from chairs to the floor “centerstage”. He instructed them to yell, “Merry Christmas Scrooge!” the moment the bah-humbugging curmudgeon showed his face. Jacobs then dashed behind the set, quick-changed into Scrooge and reappeared. Upon receiving the greeting, he grumbled, “Horrible creatures!”, which elicited much feedback from the rug squatters.
In this interactive way, the performance carried on and, soon, three children were recruited by Scrooge’s employee Bob Cratchit (Bedard) as shop apprentices. They were given bowler hats to wear and even lunch consisting of a rubber chicken and rubber trout. They were also dubbed “Who”, “He” and “Where”, which ignited an Abbott & Costello type routine between Cratchit and Scrooge. A sample: “Here is Who, She is He and There is Where.”
“I better put my money away before someone tries to steal it,” said Jacobs as Scrooge at one point, clutching a coin-filled velvet pouch. “I want it!” came a few cries from the junior set.
The tale, of course, included the visitations of three spirits, that of Christmas Past, Present and Future. These roles were played by Bedard to Jacobs’ Scrooge, whose demeanor changes from reluctant and bitter to re-energized and giving. In the closing scene, Scrooge tells Cratchit that he will be giving him a pay raise, which is followed by a chorus of “Tidings of Comfort and Joy”.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the performance for children in attendance was the opportunity to interview the actors and see behind the curtain. How did you make the ghost go so high? Was it real money? How can you be more than one person? How about next time if you wrap presents? The questions were many.
For Bedard, the interactivity with children is what she looks forward to most. “It’s perfect for kids in general. They’re the most honest and get very involved. We do the show 2 to 3 times a day. We’re trying to bring theater to children, as so many arts programs are being cut. We like to show them the behind-the-scenes. They scream, laugh and run up on stage. No show is the same because of that.”