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TEA plans radio theater production of 'A Christmas Carol' for holidays

Brit Ward writes adaptation of Charles Dickens classic

Mike Easterling
Farmington Daily Times
Actor Dan Cabrera performs during the taping of the Theater Ensemble Arts production of "A Christmas Carol" that will be broadcast three times on KSJE-FM over the holidays.
  • "A Christmas Carol" will air at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 27 on KSJE-FM 90.9.
  • The run time for the TEA production is approximately 90 minutes.
  • TEA regular Steven Clark provided the editing and sound design.

FARMINGTON — Even though the adaptation he has written of "A Christmas Carol" is close to the original story, Brit Ward of the Farmington community theater company Theater Ensemble Arts worries that some folks will accuse him of taking liberties with the Charles Dickens classic. 

That's because few people have actually read the work in question, he argues. "A Christmas Carol" may be Dickens' best-known work, but most people are only familiar with it through one or several of the dozens of film or TV adaptations that have been made of it over the years, Ward said.

And many of those projects have altered Dickens' story in substantial ways, he said, creating false impressions in the minds of many of those viewers. Ward hopes those who listen to the TEA radio theater presentation of "A Christmas Carol" that airs this week on the San Juan College campus radio station do so with an open mind.

What misconceptions are out there about Dickens' material?

Perhaps the biggest popular misconception about the Dickens source material, he said, is its length. Ward pointed out that "A Christmas Carol" is not, in fact, a full-fledged book.

"The novella is pretty short," he said. "When most people think of Charles Dickens, they think, 'loquacious' or 'verbose.' This is actually his shortest work. You can easily read it in an afternoon."

Brit Ward

Other misconceptions have sprung up around the ending of the story, he pointed out, explaining that the original story has a slightly different climax from the conclusion regularly portrayed by Hollywood.

Ward said he labored to keep his radio theater version of the tale largely true to Dickens' version, although he acknowledged expanding the roles of certain characters, in particular the wife of Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew Fred.

"That's a much meatier role," Ward said. "This is clearly our version of the story, but there's not a lot that's going to alienate fans of the source material."

Ward adapts character's roles, has fun doing it

Tim Bagley, left, Christopher Spinner, Shera Piper, and Dan Ware perform during the taping of the Theater Ensemble Arts radio theater production of "A Christmas Carol" on Dec. 6 at KSJE-FM on the San Juan College campus.

Ward wrote an original draft of the script in one week, then completed a rewrite a week later after a cast read-through. He said after hearing his original draft read aloud by the cast, he realized there was too much expository dialogue from the main character.

"My first version was a lot of Scrooge telling us what was going on," he said. "It was too much."

Ward increased the presence of Jacob Marley in the second version, moving much of Scrooge's dialogue to him.

"I didn't know I would enjoy adapting it so much," Ward said of the experience. "I'm very proud of it."

Sequel to a successful first radio theater production 

The run time for the TEA production is approximately 90 minutes. The production was recorded on Dec. 6, with TEA regular Steven Clark providing the editing and sound design.

The cast for TEA's production of "A Christmas Carol" includes Dan Ware, Tim Bagley, Christopher Spinner, Shera Piper, Ben Burns, Joey Herring, Tate Macsalka, Daniel Cabrera, Rhonda Ware, RJ Macsalka, Chuck Holmes, Ethan Franklin and Scott Michlin.

This is the second radio theater production TEA has presented. The group delivered a version of "Dracula!" for Halloween, and Herring, the TEA board president, said the feedback from that production was gratifying.

Joey Herring

"It was excellent," she said. "We had a lot of really good comments, including people who listened to it all around the country."

TEA officials have been so pleased with the response to their radio theater productions, in fact, that they hope to do another one in early 2021.

"That is still the plan," Herring said, adding that the company is exploring the idea of performing a "Gunsmoke" story. "But we're open for suggestions."

"A Christmas Carol" will air at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and at 2 p.m. on Dec. 27 on KSJE-FM 90.9. Call 505-566-3517 for details.

Mike Easterling can be reached at 505-564-4610 or measterling@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription.