Theatre Tuscaloosa opens 'A Christmas Carol' today

Theatre Tuscaloosa opens 'A Christmas Carol' today
Photo courtesy of P. Solorzano

Coming back to a show is a new experience for Tina Turley. Never, as a director, has she put on the same show two years in a row, until now. Turley is the director of Theatre Tuscaloosa’s upcoming production of “A Christmas Carol,” which she also directed last year for the company. 

“I hesitated for a long time before I did the show because so many theater companies do it,” she said. “But you know just because I've gotten used to something doesn't mean that our community has and I had to embrace that this is a story that people really do love to see and really do love to relive.” 

The past year between productions, she said, has given her time to ruminate on the show and what changes she wanted to make in how she presented the classic Charles Dickens tale about Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts who visit him on Christmas Eve. 

“I love it,” she said. “Actually, in some ways it's easier because you know the designs are going to work and all that stuff because you've seen what works and what doesn't, so you get to change what didn’t work but also it gives you a chance to really live with something for a while.” 

Some of the cast from last year’s production are returning as well, including Grace Conner who is reprising her role as Belle, Scrooge’s ex-girlfriend from his youth, and is also taking on the role of the undertaker's wife. 

“It's been really nice because I've played roles before where I've been like ‘Dang I wish I could have done this different,’” Conner said. “And so being able to play it a second time, I get to fix stuff that I didn't like the first time and get to learn new things so I absolutely love getting to play the second time.” 

There’s also some new members to the cast this year like Charles Prosser, who plays Christmas Present. Getting to be in a full-fledged production of his favorite Christmas story is “checking off the bucket list” for Prosser who said he’s been involved in smaller productions of the story before both as Christmas Present and as a director. 

Working with the set of this production was interesting to him. As a way to keep the play moving and to honor the dream-sequence motif in the story, Turley decided to stick to one set for the whole play - Scrooge’s bedroom. 

“The Cratchits take up one little corner of the sitting room and then we do the scene with the nephew and the party at his house, that's over on the other side and Fezziwig is right down the middle,” Prosser said. “Then there's a walk in front for some street scenes… but it all takes place in his bedroom basically. When you think about it, he probably never left it. He's just dreaming it anyway.” 

Also new to this production is Shelton State student Porsche Kemp who plays Christmas Past. When it came to preparing for her role, Kemp said she took a different approach than trying to go through the plethora of adaptations that have been made over the years. 

“I feel like sometimes that can be difficult when there's so many different versions of the character so I talked to [Turley] and I asked her ‘What do you want me to bring to the role,?” Kemp said. “She told me she really wanted me to put my personality into it. I'm usually a bubbly person; I like to smile and laugh and all that stuff, so she wanted me to bring that flare.”

Kemp also said she thinks people love the story and keep coming back to it because it’s a classic redemption story. 

“Scrooge, during this night where all the ghosts visit him, he sees his past, his present and what his future could be if he doesn't change his ways,” she said. “I feel like everybody needs to really think about what they do on a daily basis, what choices they make, what connections they make with people. I feel like it's very important to always stay centered and remember who you are and don't let materials use you. And I think it's a good thing for Christmas time.”

Turley feels similarly to Kemp and said that as she reread Dickens’ original novel to prepare for the play, she was stuck by how timely the theme was.  

“This day and time, it speaks volumes to how easily we can get caught up in things that really aren't the important things,” she said. “So I think it has a powerful message, has had one since it was written.” 

Theatre Tuscaloosa’s “A Christmas Carol” will run today through December 15 at the Bean-Brown Theatre. Tickets range from $14 to $19. Tickets can be purchased and specific showtimes found at www.theatretusc.com. 

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