A story of Christmas redemption played out on the steps and over the airwaves at the Church of the Nazarene on Dec. 11.
Facing an uncertain COVID-19 situation, the organizers of the annual Christmas play opted to take the production off the stage and move it outside. More than 20 church members put together a radio play production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
A Christmas Carol, first published as a novella in the 1840s, tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a wealthy elderly man who is defined by his cold-heartedness until a visit from spirits representing Christmas past, present and future change his outlook.
“We’ve put on a production for years and years. And it was a real loss last year not to do that. And I just thought, I can’t let another year go by,” said Marie Fast, the play’s director.
“Given all the uncertainties about COVID, I thought we just have to do something outside.”
Fast said moving to a radio play allowed them to dispense with sets and line memorization for the actors as well as ensuring the play could go forward regardless of the COVID-19 situation.
Part of the audience gathered in front of the church’s steps where the lead actors read their parts into microphones. Others sat in their cars in the parking lot and picked up the radio broadcast of the play or stood by a roaring campfire as they listened. The play was also broadcast over the church’s Facebook page, offering several ways to listen.
Along with the 11-player cast that brought Dickens’ characters to life, another group seated inside the church’s lobby performed live sound effects: rattling chains, chiming bells, knocks at the door and more.
Additional sound effects were provided by Joel Chambers and Jordan Keats who operated a sound board and some effects software. The sound effects, both live and pre-recorded, added depth to the dialogue the actors read.
Keats said helping with sound design for the play has been a good opportunity to practice the skills he is learning in an online course.
Bruce Fast, who portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge, is no stranger to putting on a show. He said he is known as “Captain Bible” around the church because of the one-man plays he puts on for children in Sunday school and at bible camps.
He said the radio play was a change of format from stage plays because it did not require memorizing lines, but it required the actors to do more with their voices in the absence of gestures and props.
“All of the motion, all of the dynamic that is put out there has to come through your voice,” Fast said of performing the radio play.
Clayton Keats, an associate pastor at the church, played opposite Fast’s Scrooge as Bob Cratchit, the meek clerk Scrooge mistreats prior to his epiphany and change of ways.
“The idea is, it is a play that you can interchange parts. I already wore two different hats and two different outfits and you just adapt as you go,” Keats said.
He also praised the work behind the scenes that brought the play, and its important message, to the audience.
“It’s a timeless classic for anybody that thinks that they are a lost cause. COVID brings out the best and the worst of humanity these days, it seems,” Keats said.
“We want to portray a story of change. It was a change of heart for Scrooge.”
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