BLOOMSBURG — In Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble’s (BTE) 45-year history, “A Christmas Carol” has been a regular play in their holiday performance repertoire. While in the ensemble’s early years the play was an annual tradition, more recently it has been part of a five-year rotation of favorite Christmas productions. This year will be BTE’s 19th performance of the beloved story, adapted for the stage by director Aaron White.
“Adapting classical novels for the stage can be a challenge,” White said. He explained that Dickens was paid by the word to write his novel, and while the language is beautiful, the long descriptions do not work well for stage performances.
“So finding a framing device that allows for the magic and the richness of his text to come through while not needing to spend hours listening to someone read the description of a door knocker is the task of an adapter,” White said.
White is also responsible for composing the music that will be heard during the play. He worked alongside two music directors, Kimie Muroya and Michael Covel.
“We have people playing violin, guitar, accordion, and flute, as well as a hammered dulcimer and mandolin,” White said. “The music is at the heart of this version; it drives the story along.”
And while the story has been told numerous times on the BTE stage, White said audiences can expect a fresh performance each time it returns.
“Each show is built with a new vision, new designers, and often a different director,” he said. “The sets, costumes, lights, and props all reflect that and are unique each time.”
White said there will be a few new faces in the performance this year, and that it will also uniquely involve a large group of students from local schools.
“Community is at the heart of all of our productions,” he said, “and providing a place for these kids to learn and grow their craft is integral to our mission. Some of these actors have been in previous Christmas shows, including our last ‘A Christmas Carol,’ so to have them back with us is a real joy.”
The cast will also include many actors that audiences will remember from recent productions at BTE, including Andrew Hubatsek, who will play Scrooge. A part of BTE for the past 22 years, he first came in the 1980s to play young Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.”
“Since then I’ve been in many productions of this play here…and I have played all the male parts multiple times,” he said. This will be his second time playing “old Scrooge.”
“Doing this show in Bloomsburg is like a ritual for our community,” he added, “and I feel it ingrained in my body and mind, so doing it is kind of effortless. I just let the story tell itself through me.”
At the same time, each performance is “a new telling of an old story,” he said, “and telling it to young people who will be experiencing it for the first time, which is a joy.”
Hubatsek also said the message is one that never grows old; in fact, in seems to grow more meaningful.
“I think this story is so timeless and indestructible,” he said, “because it’s essentially a story about a spiritual awakening. Scrooge doesn’t have any compassion for anyone else because he has no love for himself.”
White echoed similar thoughts about the play, which is not only a tradition for families in the region, but presents as an apt parable about generosity.
“I’m always impressed, when returning to the story, how it continues to resonate no matter how far away we get from its time of origin,” he said. “It feels particularly germane in the current economic climate, too. Sharing of the human spirit extends into how we distribute our societal wealth. It was a strong theme in many Dickens’ writings, and it holds true today.”