"A Christmas Carol" December 1981
By Charles Dickens, Directed by Gloria Ingram & Ray Phillips
From The Daily World, Sunday, December 13, 1981
What can you say the third time around?
Two years ago, the first time the Driftwood Players did "A Christmas Carol," we remember saying something to the effect that "when the audience filed out of the theater after the play, Christmas had come."
Well, that's still true. The story of a man who destroyed his own life with acts of meanness and cruelty, who was given the gift to see himself as he was, and the to change, always conveys the idea that Christ was born to teach us, the idea that it's never too late for love. That's what makes it a perfect Christmas play.
What makes the Driftwood production extraordinarily good -- or at least the main factor -- is its Ebenezer Scrooge, Ernie Ingram. His 1981 performance is, if anything, better than last year, for his miserly Scrooge softens sooner, making his change of character a little less abrupt and inspiring more quickly the viewer's compassion.
The smaller roles are exceptionally well done this year, each one convincing and effective in the purpose of the play. Mike Munson played Bob Cratchitt with more dignity than he sometimes has been given; Gerald Simera was a sweet and frail-looking Tiny Tim, Joey Kruft a realistic lonely Scrooge as a boy.
Val Pearson's ghoulish charwoman, aided by Denise Button's callous Cockney laundress; Ray Phillips' cheerful Nephew Fred, Bill Davis' hearty Mr. Fezziwig (and Val doubling as Mrs. Fezziwig), all were beautifully-done cameos.
Jim Ball couldn't be recognized under his ghastly Morley makeup, and he was suitably frightening and at the same time pitiable. Nina Morean as the Spirit of Christmas Past. Marta Wells as Scrooge's youthful sweetheart, Kathy Johnson as Mrs. Pratchitt, all turned in good performances.
Other players were Alan Richrod, Rich Lovgren, Lisa Thompson, Lorie Alkire, Gary Morean, Paige Thompson. Clark Yates, Jennifer Borth, Ken Ward, Katrina Rapp, Kurt Swaney, Greg Ballew, Daniela Quigg, Krista Richters, Kristin Hodgson, Addie Carter, Kelly Richters and Mike Simera.
"A Christmas Carol" is short, hardly more than an hour, but it's the most difficult play the Driftwood Players do each year, said director Gloria Ingram. There are special effects galore, including a highly efficient fog machine and a ghastly, ghostly, glowing doorplate, and each must be synchronized with the action, the lights, the sound effects and the dialogue. They all go off as smooth as clockwork.
The Dickens classic is thought of as a children's play. It isn't, of course. Small children can understand little of the 19th century dialogue and can only dimly grasp the ideas of charity and kindness, or, for that matter, miserliness and meanness. The jumping-around in time and the various "spirits" must be incomprehensible.
But they know from Scrooge's voice that he is mean, unpleasant man. They can see that Tiny Tim is crippled and that his family loves him very much. And when the "monsters" have finished, and Scrooge suddenly begins to leap around on stage, filled with joy of a new life, they understand that somehow Christmas has brought about a great and wonderful change.
And isn't that the message of "A Christmas Carol?'
From The Daily World, Friday, December 11, 1981
For more than a century, readers and theatregoers have seen the spirit of Christmas transform Ebenezer Scrooge from a Yuletide grouch to the embodiment of charity and good will in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."
Again this year, miserly Scrooge, pitiable Tiny Tim, the goodhearted Cratchits and all Dickens' 19th Century Londoners are entertaining Harborites with the Driftwood Players' production of the holiday classic.
Bah-humbugging his way across the Driftwood Playhouse stage, Aberdeen attorney Ernie Ingram repeats his role as Scrooge, playing the part of muttering curmudgeon to the hilt.
"One reason I like to do it is because people enjoy watching it," Ingram said, but "it's not an easy role to do because of the extreme transformation."
Ingram has played Scrooge during the past two Driftwood productions of the play, as well.
Gloria Ingram directs her husband and a cast of nearly 30 in a stage adaption composed by Gregory A. Falls of A Contemporary Theatre in Seattle.
She said what makes "Christmas Carol" a tough production to direct is the complex array of special effects used to capture the imagination of holiday audiences.
"Except for Scrooge it's not too demanding a play for the actors," she said, "but it's a demanding play technically."
"We have music that has to mesh with what's happening on stage," she explained, and it "requires more complicated make-up than most other plays.
"Since our stage is limited in size we also require many more people who know exactly when the props have to go out."
Tables, chairs, plates, silverware and desks are stored backstage, ready to be hustled into place when the lights dim between scenes.
Carry-on items, such as canes and top hats are laid out on tables in the lobby for actors to grab as they approach the stage via side entrances.
Some new ghostly effects are in store to make this year's production even more dramatic than past shows. At the risk of spilling the beans, Mrs. Ingram revealed that an image of Marley's ghost and some of Scrooge's other visions will take on a chilling new look.
And the London fog that drifted across the Playhouse stage in last year's "Carol" is back.
"When you get it going, you have fog like gangbusters, "Ernie Ingram said. "Last time we used a fog machine we had a hell of a time with the actors" who had such a good time playing in the mist they almost forgot what they were doing.
The Players feed about 40 pounds of dry ice into the fog machine each night, the Ingrams said.
The nearly 30-member cast requires a a lot of attention, especially since 12 of the actors are grade school age or younger, Mrs. Ingram said
"The kids take it lightly until we can impress upon them that we do charge admission and the audience takes it seriously," she said.
Once the kids, and the adults, get into the swing of things, however, "Christmas Carol" is a fun play to produce, she added, and the cast "loves it, they really do. They have a good time."
Appearing in other key roles are Bill Davis as Mr. Fezziwig and the 2nd Spirit, Mike Munson as Bob Cratchit, Val Pearson as Mrs. Fezziwig and the charwoman, Gerald Simera as Tiny Tim, Jim Ball as Marley's ghost and Ray Phillips, who also co-directs the play, as Fred.
"Christmas Carol" will show tonight Dec. 11 as well as the 12th 13th and 17, 18, 19 at 8:15 pm in the Driftwood Playhouse, 1407 "B" St., Hoquiam.
Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children (under 12).
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