UU Church Today, Practice & Voice

The Original Readers Theatre – “A Christmas Carol”

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a tale of magic, but of a very practical kind.  It is the story of the magic that we all have–magic that comes from the wisdom of kindness, empathy, and compassion.  Indeed, the root of the word, “magic,” refers to one who has the ability to apply wisdom gained from the natural world to life.  In his transformation from an odious, “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, clutching, covetous old sinner” to a beloved member of the community, Ebenezer Scrooge reminds us all of our power to transform ourselves and the world.

I have loved this story since I was a young child.  I remember watching Albert Finney play Charles Dickens’ Christmas curmudgeon in the 1971 film Scrooge and becoming completely hooked by this tale of redemption.  (It didn’t hurt that the film had lots of music in it as well.)  By the time I reached college at Penn State, the story was a regular part of my Christmas tradition. Thus, when I learned of an English professor who read the story every year in front of a roaring fire at the Nittany Lion Inn, I eagerly attended. 

A Long Tradition

Dressed in a tuxedo, Dr. Tony Lentz read the story just as his college professor at the University of North Carolina did. In fact, this annual reading of A Christmas Carol was begun by Charles Dickens himself in 1853, when he read it at the Birmingham Town Hall.  Though he read it to raise money for charity, an author reading his own work was considered novel, if not scandalous. But by that time, the story had become a treasured part of Christmas.  Hence, the 2000 people in the Birmingham Town Hall received Dickens warmly.  Dickens went on to do 127 public readings of A Christmas Carol, including in the United States in 1867, where he performed the piece for his friend Ralph Waldo Emerson. (Dickens was baptized an Anglican, but associated with Unitarians both in England and the United States.)

Continuing the tradition, I have been performing A Christmas Carol in readers theater format at Towson Unitarian Universalist Church since 2011.  I am pleased this year to be presenting it online via Zoom as part of All Souls Unitarian Church.  I will be joined by an all-star cast of All Souls members, including John Burns as Scrooge, Thomas Farnan-Williams as Bob Cratchit, Lei Rumley as Mrs. Cratchit, and Mike Pryor as Fred (Scrooge’s Nephew).

We hope you can join us on December 23 at 7 pm.  Bring a cup of wassail or eggnog to enjoy as you watch us via Zoom.  In the spirit of the story, we will be accepting donations for Emergency Infant Services.  Register at https://bit.ly/ACC1223.

Since 2008, Karyn Bergmann Marsh has been an active member and leader of Towson Unitarian Universalist Church, in Maryland, where she’s served many roles including the Membership Committee Chair, Bylaws Committee Chair, Lay Worship Associate, Board Secretary and Trustee. Raised Catholic, Karyn found Unitarian Universalism in her 20s. Prior to seminary, she was an attorney and geologist specializing in environmental restoration, both of which influence her theology. Karyn recently relocated to Tulsa, following the unprecedented role of starting her internship virtually. Learn more about Karyn in this post.

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