- Pollard Theatre opens its casting call looking for child actors for A Territorial Christmas Carol. | Photo provided
Its been 30 years since A Territorial Christmas Carol debuted at Guthries Pollard Theatre and helped spawn the downtown transformation that has meant an influx of tax dollars and holiday cheer for Oklahomas original capital.
As the theater begins its pearl anniversary of the production, an adaptation of Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol by Oklahoma playwright Stephen P. Scott, Pollard Theatres artistic director W. Jerome Stevenson said its the last chance to see the current iteration of the play performed annually at the Pollard since 2001.
This will be the last year we produce the show exactly this way, Stevenson said. There will be fundamental casting changes, perhaps new direction for the show and looking forward to that. This incarnation is being sent off with all of our fondness, love and memories.
A Territorial Christmas Carol began at the Pollard in 1987 and sparked a townwide celebration that evolved into a months worth of events highlighting the citys history in full Victorian regalia.
Guthries territorial Christmas celebration begins Nov. 25 with a parade and the naming of a territorial governor. The celebrations continue with an historic home tour Dec. 9 and Victorian Walks on Dec. 9 and Dec. 16. At 1 p.m. Dec. 16, Santa will fly into the Guthrie-Edmond Regional Airport for a free event and a Christmas Organ concert is held at 8 p.m. at Guthrie Scottish Rite Masonic Center, 900 E. Oklahoma Ave.
Andrea Post, Guthrie Visitor Bureaus executive director, said an average of 10,000 people visit the town for territorial Christmas celebrations each year and spend an estimated $360,000 in the city.
Its a living window into history that is a unique interactive, Post said. We have a rich history that you dont see other places because this was the close of the Wild West, the last portion to be settled. It commemorates a time when people sat around and caroled. The beauty and magic of the atmosphere is romantic.
The adaptation is set in Guthrie during the Oklahoma Land Run and showcases themes of brotherly love and redemption through the character of Ebenezer Scrooge.
We see ourselves in Scrooge, Stevenson said. Hes not just a stereotypical version of mean; hes a person who has been hurt and broken. He has all these incidents in his life that cause him to harden up and close off. The story reminds us that it is so easy for us to fall into that trap.
It reminds us that were connected and each event plays a role in who we become and how we are viewed. If were not careful, its easy to turn that cynicism into cruelty, and that story resonates with our audience, and across the country.
While many of the cast changes from year to year, in particular the roles for children, veteran Pollard company member James Ong has portrayed the role of Scrooge since the turn of the millennium.
- Jones Ong center has portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge in the Oklahoma-adapted version of A Territorial Chrismas Carol for the better part of two decades. | Photo provided
Ong doesnt play a businessman like the Dickens version. The Oklahoma Scrooge is a pioneer eking out a living.
Hes different than any other Scrooge Ive seen, Stevenson said. He has a Santa Claus-esque personality to begin with, so finding the harshness and coarseness, the broken part of him is the real discovery for the audience.
Shows run Nov. 24-Dec. 23, and many play to sold-out audiences, which Stevenson said has led the production to have the largest audiences the theater will see all year. A Christmas Carol, in many different adaptations and variations, is the most produced play in the country, Stevenson said.
Theres no other show that plays to so many people who already know the story and still want to be moved, he said.
Stevenson was involved with the Pollards production as an actor before taking over as artistic director. He takes pride in the fact the production introduced generations of children to their first professional production. The theater extends its casting call across central Oklahoma, looking for children to play roles even if they dont have previous professional experience.
Sometimes there will be more than one child from a family in a production, and they become part of the larger Pollard family, Stevenson said. Its been very gratifying to see the Pollard become such an integral part of peoples lives beyond seeing a show on the weekend.
From year to year, Stevenson said hes always looking for one more nuance to make the audience have a more joyous time or the one change that will make Scrooges plight resonate that much more, but the production has stayed largely the same for 16 years. He said he will likely hand over the reins next year as director of the play.
Its about time that it take a different look in terms of what the casting looks like and what some of the moment-to-moment work in the show is like, Stevenson said. Im excited to see someone else get ahold of it and shepherd it down the road. As artistic director, Ill be here and an integral part of that, but letting someone else shape the story and present it to a new audience with a new sensibility.
Print headline: Guthrie tradition; The 30th anniversary of Pollard Theatre Companys A Territorial Christmas Carol will be the final production in its current form.