November 24, 2015 UPDATE – Sadly we are not able to stage our production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL this year, 2015. At auditions, only one quarter of the needed cast of almost 50 turned out. It was with heavy heart and disappointment that Tara and I realized we could not give you the show this year.
BUT, we are still having a Fundraiser to benefit the local food shelves. And, as an extra incentive, all donors will have an opportunity to win a $250 Shopping Spree, which has been provided by an anonymous donor. Thus, all contributions will go to the Food Shelves we have been assisting. Full details can be found by clicking on this link taking you to THE WALPOLE PLAYERS website. And, feel free to contact me to make a donation, thank you, RAY
Since posting this page I have started a website for The Walpole Players in Walpole, New Hampshire. Our 7th annual production will be held on December 10, 11, 12, and 13, 2014. Full details can be seen on THE WALPOLE PLAYERS website. (this update posted 27 October 2014)
You have heard me talk about the Walpole Players annual production of Charles Dickens’ classic tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Here is the public service announcement the wonderful folks at FACT TV in Bellows Falls, Vermont, filmed yesterday for me announcing our 4th annual production that will be held in the Helen Miller Theater in the Walpole Town Hall, Walpole, New Hampshire on December 14, 15, 16, and 17. Following is an article I wrote about the history of our production. Click on image below to start video.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Presented by The Walpole Players
To give a reading of The Carol is to live a lifetime in one hour – as Scrooge so aptly remarks at the end – The Spirits have done it all in one night! – Cedric C. Dickens, London 1965 (great grandson of Charles Dickens
The curtain rises on Wednesday, December 14th for the fourth year when The Walpole Players welcome Mr. Charles Dickens to the Helen Miller Theater at the Walpole Town Hall to give a public reading of his classic tale, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Starting at 7PM the production will run for four successive evenings, December 14, 15, 16 and 17. As its gift to the community from the players, admission is free, but in keeping with the Christmas spirit, as learned by Ebenezer Scrooge, your monetary donation at the door will benefit The Fall Mountain Food Shelf and Our Place Drop-In Center.
What has become an anxiously awaited annual tradition was sparked by a solitary serendipitous comment. You may recall the freak storm the last day, Sunday, of Walpole’s Old Home Days in 2008. The power was out in the village and the final performance of the players’ YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU had to be cancelled. The cast party, as a result, began early by candle light on Ray Boas’ porch. At one point that evening Jean Kobeski said, “We should do A CHRISTMAS CAROL.” Everyone nodded yes, but Ray’s ears perked up. In the early 1990s following a trip exploring Dickens’ London he wanted to give readings in his book shop of Dickens’ holiday tale. That never came about when Cathy and he married and eventually moved to Walpole, but the suggestion that evening germinated and Ray brought the idea up at the players’ annual meeting that October. It was enthusiastically received, and Tara Sad said, “I will help you Ray.” And with that the annual production began. Ray and Tara felt that this would be something they would want to do each year, but it is presumptuous to call an event the “first annual.” But, now the players’ can proudly say they are presenting A CHRISTMAS CAROL for the Fourth time.
In preparation, Tara and Ray read a number of stage adaptations and were intrigued with the use of tableaus within a frame. Dickens could be reading as he did during his public performances from 1853 until his death in 1870 while some scenes could be acted out within the frame. Tara suggested a scrim for the frame be acquired which would enable black outs for scene changes, and her efforts in having it donated to the players has provided a magical effect.
Slight modifications have been made each year changing, adding or dropping some scenes, but Ray has kept his adaptation as close to Dickens’ original as practicable to get Dickens’ message of Scrooge’s redemption across to the audience. With last season’s overwhelming response by young budding thespians Tara added a group of young carolers to entertain the audience prior to Mr. Dickens arrival. For this year’s production over 40 people ranging in age from 5 to 70s came out on the first day of auditions, and as in the past Ray and Tara found a spot for each one who wanted to be included.
Charles Dickens’ first public reading was of A CHRISTMAS CAROL on December 27, 1853, with the proceeds all given to a charity. What a perfect thing to do Ray and Tara realized. “We can give the play to our friends in the community, and in return they can do something for those in need.” The charity collectors could not have said it better in the first scene when calling on Scrooge at his office seeking a donation for those “in want of common necessaries” because it is at this time of year “of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices.” Mary Lou Huffling of the Fall Mountain Food Shelf explained that she could obtain more groceries with cash donations than if someone bought and donated foodstuffs for the same dollar amount, so it made sense to ask the audiences for a cash donation instead. In the first three years audiences attending The Walpole Players’ performances have contributed $8,590.74 to the Fall Mountain Food Shelf. This year monies donated will also be shared with Our Place Drop-In Center. The need is particularly acute this year for both organizations in providing meals and groceries for those in need. In fact, Our Place has seen a 35% increase this year in requests for assistance.
Ray has also prepared a sixteen page keepsake booklet for each year’s production, donating it in memory of his late wife, Cathy. Besides a listing of cast members the booklet provides historical information about Dickens and his classic tale along with an illustration from the 1843 First Edition. The balance of the pages focus on different aspects of Christmas history and traditions. Using his collection of over 40 books about Christmas, Dickens and A CHRISTMAS CAROL for ideas and research, the 2011 booklet will include the history of the Candy Cane, the origin of the Nativity Scene, and its relationship to the beginnings of caroling.
Tickets to the 7PM production on December 14, 15, 16 and 17 are required because of limited space in The Helen Miller Theater, although Ray has been able to seat everyone who has come to the door in the past. The free tickets are available at Real to Reel, Galloway Real Estate, Village Square Booksellers, Costume Ladies, Murray’s and Jake’s. A CHRISTMAS CAROL has been read and performed since 1843 – 167 years – obviously a success and tradition. So, even without any additional changes The Walpole Players know that their tradition will continue too, and in the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge’s redemption the audiences will continue to do what they can for those less fortunate at this time of year.