Different Scrooges, same humbug attitude

December 5, 2012

As the holiday season rolls on, shades of tradition pop up everywhere: a glowing light display on the house down the street, specials on TV to cuddle up to, and local theatres putting on holiday plays.

One of the most celebrated is ‚??A Christmas Carol,‚?Ě the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his transformation from a hard-hearted holiday-hating grump to a giving man on the path of redemption.

The pop culture icon has been portrayed many times over and this year we chatted with two locals who will take on the role.

Actor: John Arena, 53, of Greenridge, Actors Circle at Providence Playhouse, Scranton

History with Scrooge: ‚??A Christmas Carol‚?Ě was Arena‚??s first show when he began acting locally in 1995; he was narrator Charles Dickens. He took the part of Scrooge six years ago, so this is his second go-round in the part.

The Weekender:
How do you prepare for such a transition?

John Arena: It does take a lot out of me emotionally, to go from one personality to another and to do it gradually. To do that in a space of a very short play ‚?? which this is because it‚??s a stage reading about 90 minutes long ‚?? it takes a little bit of thought and preparation. I try to think about myself in situations where I‚??ve been angry and in situations where I‚??ve been joyful and try to reflect on those and bring that out in my own personality.

W: Do you have a favorite line or scene?

JA: It‚??s not one of the more positive ones. (switches to his ‚??Scrooge‚?Ě voice) ‚??If I had my way, every idiot who goes about spouting ‚??Merry Christmas‚?? should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart, he should.‚?Ě

W: That‚??s definitely one of the nastier ones. Why that one?

JA: When I say it, it gives me kind of a rush, like goosebumps. I think I scared the pants off some of the kids when we started practicing. They weren‚??t expecting me to come out with this Scrooge voice and be as mean as I was; they were kind of cringing. When I kick them out of my office for caroling in front of my place, they really run away; it‚??s not acting.

W: A large part of the play is seeing the Ghosts of Christmas. Which one is your favorite?

JA: The Ghost of Christmas Present, the big, jolly guy who‚??s expansive, if you will. He‚??s all about what the spirit of Christmas should be.

Actor: Linda Griffiths, 37, Scranton, Little Shiny Things at Phoenix Performing Arts Centre, Duryea

History with Scrooge: Griffiths has never played the grouch on stage before.

The Weekender: This production isn‚??t your typical ‚??Christmas Carol.‚?Ě

Linda Griffiths: Not at all; it‚??s a comedy. It‚??s about a women‚??s guild putting on ‚??A Christmas Carol,‚?Ě so I‚??m actually playing a woman, Thelma, who‚??s playing Scrooge. It‚??s all about the mishaps that go on during the production.

W: How do you prepare for the big personality change Scrooge undergoes?

LG: I‚??ve seen numerous productions, movies, and different things of ‚??A Christmas Carol‚?Ě because it‚??s one of my father Jim‚??s favorite Christmas movies. I think he watches every version of it that he can find, so I kind of have a feel for being rude and mean and then all happy. It‚??s fun to come out and you stand up and you‚??re very self-important, and at the end, you‚??re just bursting with happiness.

W: You also have to deal with getting into character as Thelma. Is it hard to switch from her to Scrooge?

LG: Not at all. I think Thelma is kind of a prima donna, so it‚??s easy to go back and forth. Thelma gets mad at you if you‚??re messing something up, and Scrooge is just Scrooge, so they‚??re very similar.

W: Do you have a favorite line or scene?

LG: ‚??Every idiot who goes about with ‚??Merry Christmas‚?? on his lips should be boiled in his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.‚?Ě

W: Not so nice.

LG: It‚??s just so funny. I love Christmas. Most people enjoy Christmas, and it‚??s like Scrooge is telling you that all these people who are so happy and enjoying the season and what it means are stupid. Even though he‚??s a nasty man, it‚??s still silly when you think about it. He works in finance, so he‚??s obviously educated and you would think he‚??d be smart enough to realize that what he just said is really dumb.

W: A large part of the play is seeing the Ghosts of Christmas. Which one is your favorite?

LG: The Ghost of Christmas Present is my favorite. It lets you see how Scrooge is affecting people right now.

‚?Ę A Christmas Carol: Dec. 6-8, 8 p.m.; Dec. 9, 2 p.m., Actors Circle at Providence Playhouse (1256 Providence Road, Scranton). $8; $6, students. 570.342.9707.

‚?Ę ‚??A Christmas Carol,‚?? Little Shiny Things Productions: Through Dec. 15, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, Phoenix Performing Arts Centre (409-411 Main St., Duryea). $12. 570.457.3589.