By Steve Novotney
Something very special took place at Oglebay Institute’s Towngate Theatre this past weekend.
There were three performances of “A Christmas Carol,” and all three were sold out. That means there were 498 seats to fill, and 498 were filled.
And the same seating scenario will play out this coming weekend when the troupe returns for two final performances on Friday and Saturday evening.
This particular rendition of Charles Dickens’ original novella was adapted for the stage by local playwright Jeremy Richter; it is directed by Tim Thompson; and Rob Garrison of “Karate Kid” fame portrays the lead character, Ebenezer Scrooge.
But Richter has written other plays; Thompson has directed other plays; and Garrison has won lead roles many times in the past.
So why this play, and why at this time?
There could be a few reasons for this unprecedented success:
- Cast members have joined Oglebay Institute’s marketing efforts with many social media postings and Tweets;
- The 48-member volunteer cast have parents, sisters, brothers, children, aunts and uncles, and cousins and friends, too;
- And the cast members are many of the best available here in the Upper Ohio Valley with local thespians Vince Marshall, Gretchen Schneider, Evan Oslund, Karissa Martin, Justin Swoyer, John Reilly, Rick Call, Bob Gaudio, Walt Warren, Dee Gregg, and Ron Scott, Jr.
- “A Christmas Carol” is the ubiquitous classic at this time of year, and it is a detailed reminder for all those in attendance of the Christmas spirit that lingers within us all;
But are those big enough reasons to allow us to forget about the real-life pressures of this time of year? And you know the list all too well.
It’s far more than what your children want, hope, and pray is under the tree come Christmas morning. There are a lot of “What ifs” that go into Christmas morning, and that, unfortunately, makes the lead-up far less enjoyable during the adult days.
What if there’s the “present-to-get” and you don’t know about it, or you can’t afford it? Will that mean your child will be met with unfair scrutiny upon her or his return to the classroom?
What if those nasty kids go home and tell their parents? And then you have to see them at the grocery store?
What if the ham dries out?
And what if Christmas produces tears instead of joy?
Can there be anything worse?
That’s why I believe those pressures force us all to own a little inner-Scrooge, and I also believe this particular Towngate performance has provided this valley with something of a perfect storm. Thanks to Richter’s rendition and Thompson’s direction, audience members get to watch as despair, sadness, coldness, and death of winter are overcome by the joy, warmth, brightness, and the life of the Christmas season, and the public gets to celebrate when Scrooge’s conscience returns him to the innocent goodwill he once embraced as a younger man.
Oglebay Institute provides the Upper Ohio Valley with several holiday-themed events each year, and “A Christmas Carol” could not have been included at a more perfect time.
And that’s because we all want our own inner-Scrooge to return us to a day when, “God bless us, everyone,” didn’t seem like the impossible dream.