PD FY21 A CHRISTMAS CAROL Virtual Workshop - History - Dallas Theater Center
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Project Discovery VIrtual Workshop: A CHRISTMAS CAROL 2018

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Adaptation, Music & New Lyrics by Todd Almond || Conceived by Lear deBessonet
Based on the play by William Shakespeare

The story is told by Antigonus (Liz Mikel), and it all starts in the Kingdom of Sicilia, where King Leontes (J.D.Mollison) suspects of treachery from his wife Queen Hermione (Tiana K. Blair) with his friend King Polixenes of Bohemia (Ivan Jasso). When the Queen reaches her ninth month of pregnancy of a baby that Leontes suspects it’s Polixenes, King Leontes plots to kill Polixenes but he manages to escape. He then accuses Hermione of adultery and asks the Oracle of Delphi for proof. The Oracle declares Hermione’s innocence but he refuses to believe. Antigonus’ wife, Paulina (Sally N. Vahle) communicates to the monarchs that their older son, Mamillious (Alan Ramirez) has died of grief. The Queen collapses and Paulina takes her to sanctuary. Paulina comes back to King Leontes to announce the sudden death of Queen Hermione, which leaves King Leontes with a terrible heartache. He concedes to not sacrifice the baby, but he orders Antigonus to take her far away to die.

The newborn princess, who we come to know as Perdita (Ivey Barr) is left by Antigonus at the shore of Bohemia where he is eaten by a bear. A shepherd (Terry Thompkins) finds the baby princess and raises her as a shepherdess. She seems to be falling for a Bohemian boy named Florizel (Jeff Pope), whom she doesn’t know is the prince of Bohemia. King Ploixenes, who discovers them at a sheep-shearing festival, would not approve this match, so the couple elopes to Sicilia.

History of A CHRISTMAS CAROL

In the spring of 1843, Charles Dickens read the United Kingdom’s parliamentary report on child labor. He was “stricken” by the long working hours and crushing testimonies of the interviewed child laborers. By the time he was back in London, Dickens was preparing to write something to embody his arguments surrounding generosity, poverty, and the working class. His original idea took the form of a pamphlet, but Dickens quickly realized that a fictional story would grab people’s hearts and minds and have “twenty thousand times the force” of a government pamphlet.

“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”      —Charles Dickens, in his preface to A Christmas Carol

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in only six weeks; the book was published on December 19, 1843. Since his previous book, Martin Chuzzlewit, was not the success his publishers, Chapman and Hall, had anticipated, they refused to pay the full amount of A Christmas Carol’s publication. Dickens paid for the publication himself, insisting on lavish binding, gilt edging, and hand-colored illustrations, and then set the price of the novella at 5 shillings so that everyone could afford it. Though the work sold well, the expensive publication and the low price resulted in little profit.

[Information courtesy of the British Library, Good Housekeeping, Mental Floss, TheCircumlocutionOffice.com, CharlesDickensPage.com, CharlesDickensInfo.com, Time, History.com, and BBC.com]

The Man Behind Ebenezer Scrooge

Go behind the scenes of our photoshoot with Alex Organ to meet the man behind 2018’s Ebenezer Scrooge!

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was originally going to be a pamphlet entitled  “An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.” Based on the work’s former title, did Dickens achieve his intention?

Amber Rossi and Alex Organ. photo by Karen Almond

Inspirations

Though the parliamentary report on child labor was the impetus for A Christmas Carol, many other things influenced how Dickens wrote.

  • Charles Dickens’ own past: When Dickens was just 12, his father was thrown into debtors’ prison, and Dickens was sent to work in a factory. This experience influenced how Dickens wrote about debtors’ prison and child labor, which became central topics for many of Dickens’ books.
  • His sister, Fanny: Dickens’ older sister, Fanny, had a disabled son, Harry. Visiting Harry caused Dickens to reflect on the lives of disabled children, especially impoverished disabled children. Harry was the inspiration for Tiny Tim, who, despite Dickens devotedly paying the best doctors to care for him, did not have the same happy ending.
  • Malton, North Yorkshire: Not long before writing A Christmas Carol, Dickens vacationed in Malton. The town is said to have inspired many of the details in the book, especially the references to church bells.
  • Charles Smithson: The offices of Dickens’ friend, the solicitor, Charles Smithson, are said to have inspired the description of Scrooge’s counting house.
  • John Elwes: Some say that Scrooge is based on the cheap politician John Elwes, who was so cheap that he wore rags and ate rotten food despite being enormously wealthy, earning him the name, “Elwes the Miser.”
  • The myth of Ebenezer Lennox Scroogie: As the story goes, Dickens took a walk in a Canongate churchyard and saw a gravestone with the inscription: “EBENEZER LENNOX SCROGGIE—MEAN MAN.” This epitaph went on to inspire the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, even though the inscription actually said “meal man”—Scroogie was a corn merchant. As appealing as the story is, it’s likely a fake. There’s no evidence that Scroogie ever existed.
    [Information courtesy of CharlesDickensInfo.com, Mental Floss, History.com, and BBC.com]

About the Author

Charles Dickens was born in 1812. He attended school in Portsmouth until his father was thrown into debtors’ prison in 1824, and Dickens was sent to work in a factory—an event which later shaped the subject matter of many of Dickens’ most famous stories. Dickens became a reporter in his late teens and started publishing humorous short stories by 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories (later known as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club) was published and had over fifteen print runs. Dickens continued his literary success with works like Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839) and persisted in producing major works every few years. Dickens was considered a celebrity in his time and frequently gave popular dramatic readings of his books. He died in 1870 with his last novel unfinished.

[Information courtesy of History.com]

Watch this video from Biographic to learn more about Charles Dickens.

Vocabulary

AMENDchange for the better
APPARITIONa ghostly figure
APPRENTICEone who is learning a trade or occupation
BEDLAM a place or situation of noisy uproar and confusion
DESTITUTEcompletely impoverished
DISMAL depressing; dreary
IDLEavoiding work or employment
LIBERALITYthe state of being generous
MELANCHOLYsadness of the spirit
MISERa person who hoards wealth
PUDDINGa traditional Christmas dessert that contains plums, dried currants, almonds, raisins and/or spices. It is either steamed or boiled and served warm
RESOLUTEfirm or determined
SMOKING BISHOPa Christmas drink of fruit and wine traditionally heated with a red hot poker

......

Adaptation, Music & New Lyrics by Todd Almond || Conceived by Lear deBessonet
Based on the play by William Shakespeare

The story is told by Antigonus (Liz Mikel), and it all starts in the Kingdom of Sicilia, where King Leontes (J.D.Mollison) suspects of treachery from his wife Queen Hermione (Tiana K. Blair) with his friend King Polixenes of Bohemia (Ivan Jasso). When the Queen reaches her ninth month of pregnancy of a baby that Leontes suspects it’s Polixenes, King Leontes plots to kill Polixenes but he manages to escape. He then accuses Hermione of adultery and asks the Oracle of Delphi for proof. The Oracle declares Hermione’s innocence but he refuses to believe. Antigonus’ wife, Paulina (Sally N. Vahle) communicates to the monarchs that their older son, Mamillious (Alan Ramirez) has died of grief. The Queen collapses and Paulina takes her to sanctuary. Paulina comes back to King Leontes to announce the sudden death of Queen Hermione, which leaves King Leontes with a terrible heartache. He concedes to not sacrifice the baby, but he orders Antigonus to take her far away to die.

The newborn princess, who we come to know as Perdita (Ivey Barr) is left by Antigonus at the shore of Bohemia where he is eaten by a bear. A shepherd (Terry Thompkins) finds the baby princess and raises her as a shepherdess. She seems to be falling for a Bohemian boy named Florizel (Jeff Pope), whom she doesn’t know is the prince of Bohemia. King Ploixenes, who discovers them at a sheep-shearing festival, would not approve this match, so the couple elopes to Sicilia.

History of A CHRISTMAS CAROL

In the spring of 1843, Charles Dickens read the United Kingdom’s parliamentary report on child labor. He was “stricken” by the long working hours and crushing testimonies of the interviewed child laborers. By the time he was back in London, Dickens was preparing to write something to embody his arguments surrounding generosity, poverty, and the working class. His original idea took the form of a pamphlet, but Dickens quickly realized that a fictional story would grab people’s hearts and minds and have “twenty thousand times the force” of a government pamphlet.

“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”      —Charles Dickens, in his preface to A Christmas Carol

Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in only six weeks; the book was published on December 19, 1843. Since his previous book, Martin Chuzzlewit, was not the success his publishers, Chapman and Hall, had anticipated, they refused to pay the full amount of A Christmas Carol’s publication. Dickens paid for the publication himself, insisting on lavish binding, gilt edging, and hand-colored illustrations, and then set the price of the novella at 5 shillings so that everyone could afford it. Though the work sold well, the expensive publication and the low price resulted in little profit.

[Information courtesy of the British Library, Good Housekeeping, Mental Floss, TheCircumlocutionOffice.com, CharlesDickensPage.com, CharlesDickensInfo.com, Time, History.com, and BBC.com]

The Man Behind Ebenezer Scrooge

Go behind the scenes of our photoshoot with Alex Organ to meet the man behind 2018’s Ebenezer Scrooge!

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was originally going to be a pamphlet entitled  “An Appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child.” Based on the work’s former title, did Dickens achieve his intention?

Amber Rossi and Alex Organ. photo by Karen Almond

Inspirations

Though the parliamentary report on child labor was the impetus for A Christmas Carol, many other things influenced how Dickens wrote.

  • Charles Dickens’ own past: When Dickens was just 12, his father was thrown into debtors’ prison, and Dickens was sent to work in a factory. This experience influenced how Dickens wrote about debtors’ prison and child labor, which became central topics for many of Dickens’ books.
  • His sister, Fanny: Dickens’ older sister, Fanny, had a disabled son, Harry. Visiting Harry caused Dickens to reflect on the lives of disabled children, especially impoverished disabled children. Harry was the inspiration for Tiny Tim, who, despite Dickens devotedly paying the best doctors to care for him, did not have the same happy ending.
  • Malton, North Yorkshire: Not long before writing A Christmas Carol, Dickens vacationed in Malton. The town is said to have inspired many of the details in the book, especially the references to church bells.
  • Charles Smithson: The offices of Dickens’ friend, the solicitor, Charles Smithson, are said to have inspired the description of Scrooge’s counting house.
  • John Elwes: Some say that Scrooge is based on the cheap politician John Elwes, who was so cheap that he wore rags and ate rotten food despite being enormously wealthy, earning him the name, “Elwes the Miser.”
  • The myth of Ebenezer Lennox Scroogie: As the story goes, Dickens took a walk in a Canongate churchyard and saw a gravestone with the inscription: “EBENEZER LENNOX SCROGGIE—MEAN MAN.” This epitaph went on to inspire the character of Ebenezer Scrooge, even though the inscription actually said “meal man”—Scroogie was a corn merchant. As appealing as the story is, it’s likely a fake. There’s no evidence that Scroogie ever existed.
    [Information courtesy of CharlesDickensInfo.com, Mental Floss, History.com, and BBC.com]

About the Author

Charles Dickens was born in 1812. He attended school in Portsmouth until his father was thrown into debtors’ prison in 1824, and Dickens was sent to work in a factory—an event which later shaped the subject matter of many of Dickens’ most famous stories. Dickens became a reporter in his late teens and started publishing humorous short stories by 21. In 1836, a collection of his stories (later known as The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club) was published and had over fifteen print runs. Dickens continued his literary success with works like Oliver Twist (1838) and Nicholas Nickleby (1839) and persisted in producing major works every few years. Dickens was considered a celebrity in his time and frequently gave popular dramatic readings of his books. He died in 1870 with his last novel unfinished.

[Information courtesy of History.com]

Watch this video from Biographic to learn more about Charles Dickens.

Vocabulary

AMENDchange for the better
APPARITIONa ghostly figure
APPRENTICEone who is learning a trade or occupation
BEDLAM a place or situation of noisy uproar and confusion
DESTITUTEcompletely impoverished
DISMAL depressing; dreary
IDLEavoiding work or employment
LIBERALITYthe state of being generous
MELANCHOLYsadness of the spirit
MISERa person who hoards wealth
PUDDINGa traditional Christmas dessert that contains plums, dried currants, almonds, raisins and/or spices. It is either steamed or boiled and served warm
RESOLUTEfirm or determined
SMOKING BISHOPa Christmas drink of fruit and wine traditionally heated with a red hot poker

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