Arts and Entertainment

Valley Center Stage to present Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol'

Traditional holiday entertainment returns to Valley Center Stage with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” onstage this December. Gary Schwartz is Ebenezer Scrooge, and Leslayann Schecterson is the Ghost of Christmas Past. - Courtesy photo
Traditional holiday entertainment returns to Valley Center Stage with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” onstage this December. Gary Schwartz is Ebenezer Scrooge, and Leslayann Schecterson is the Ghost of Christmas Past.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

The play of Christmases past will be part of Christmas present as Valley Center Stage presents Charles Dickens’ ghost story, “A Christmas Carol” next month.

The classic tale, in which the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge evolves into a cheery benefactor, is back for a fourth year at the community theater, located in downtown North Bend.

“It’s probably the most popular secular tale of Christmas. It’s such a universal theme of redemption,” said Gary Schwartz, who is directing the play and starring as Scrooge.

Using a “story theater” style in which performers both act out scenes and narrate text, the presentation will be faithful to the original novella, published in 19th century England.

“Because it’s Dickens, the text is such beautiful Victorian language, and it’s fun to hear,” Schwartz said.

Teaching young actors to employ that language was an exciting challenge for the director, who found himself explaining words like “ubiquitous” to 9-year-olds reading the script.

“It’s a lot of fun for me to educate these kids,” he said.

Because many performers return each year, Schwartz has been able to spend less time teaching the basics, and more time helping them explore the idiosyncrasies of the Victorian era. For example, actors learned that in Dickens’ day, poorer people often didn’t have ovens, and would have their butchers or bakers cook their food. Hence the appearance of a “dinner carrier” in one scene.

“I get to tell these little kids these tales, and every year the performances get richer and richer,” Schwartz said.

One year, in an attempt to better appreciate the flavor of the period, the theater served the audience an adaptation of the Christmas pudding that appears in the play. Traditional Christmas pudding is dried bread, grease drippings and lard left over from meals, mixed up with fruit and flour.

Schwartz learned from that mistake.

“This year we’re serving nice pastries, coffee and hot chocolate,” he said with a laugh.

All two dozen actors, ranging in age from 9 to 65, are from the Valley.

“I’m so proud of the fact that this group of community players get together and volunteer their time to put on this play. It is as much a tradition for us as it is for the town,” Schwartz said.

Show times are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 5, 6, 12 and 13. There is also a 1 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Dec. 6.

The play has sold out every year, Schwartz said, so get tickets early online at www.valleycenterstage.org. Admission is $15 for adults, and $12.50 for seniors and children. For more information, call (425) 831-5667.

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