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Constance Alexander: Actor creates authentic voices, timeless message in Dickens’ Christmas Carol

The way he remembers it, Jason Woods was about nine, living in Murray, Ky. He’d just finished losing a baseball game and was walking through the park, discouraged and disconsolate.

When he heard laughing and applause somewhere in the vicinity, he investigated, and happened upon an outdoor production of “Peter Pan” at Murray’s Playhouse in the Park.

“I dropped my bat and said, ‘I want to do that,’” he recalls.

Those were the days when the Playhouse was in its formative stages. Richard Valentine, Hal Park, and Liz Bussey were the folks who got that project off the ground. With their encouragement, Jason got involved and was cast in productions at the community theatre and on the Murray State University stage.

Today, Jason Woods lives in Jacksonville, Fl., and applies hard-earned creative arts skills that reach back to his roots in western Kentucky. This month, he is touring his one-man rendition of Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” and presenting five performances of the yuletide favorite.

Four of them are in various Florida locations, but the last one is close to his old Kentucky home. On Dec. 22 at 7:30 p.m., the Krider Performing Arts Center in Paris, Tenn., hosts Jason’s tour de force.

Complete with an original orchestral score composed by Woods, Jason interprets 25 different characters from the Dickens’ classic. From Scrooge, Marley and the three ghosts, to the spunky Cratchits, the buoyant nephew, and the ever-positive Tiny Tim, the actor welcomes the challenge to find their timeless voices.

“The richness of the language is powerful and that’s the reason the story endures,” he says.

Besides the authenticity of the words and the impact of the images it inspires, “A Christmas Carol” explores themes and issues that are up-to-the-minute. The way Jason Woods sees it, the tale “is about the privileged going about their business with no regard for those who suffer lack. It is about invisible ‘walls’ we build between ourselves and anyone we don’t understand, have time for, or perceive that we don’t need or those who might threaten us. It is about caring for the neglected, the orphans, single mothers, the different: the outcasts.”

In Wood’s rendition, Scrooge is multi-dimensional, representing self-willed isolation and the misery it spawns. His “Bah! Humbug!” invective is often muttered rather than shouted out, as if Scrooge must reassure himself that his views are unshakeable. Ignoring the misery and ill fortune plaguing so many, he clings to willful ignorance.

Described as “tight-fisted as a grindstone,” Scrooge insists that he owes nothing to anyone; he is blind to every cause. When his nephew asks what reason Scrooge has to be so dismal and morose at Christmas time, he chides his uncle with the reminder, “You’re rich enough.”

Scrooge’s indignant response is, “If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

Asked for a donation to those in need, he sneers, “Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses, are they still in operation? The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigor then?”

When assured that those institutions still exist, Scrooge asserts that the needy are already taken care of and his contribution has already been made. If they should perish, he feels no qualms: “If they would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population,” he says.

It takes visits from ghosts of Past, Present and Future to awaken Ebenezer Scrooge. A combination of forces — the generous spirit of the indomitable Tiny Tim; a vision of his love, lost long ago to greed; and the indelible image of two abandoned children – Ignorance and Want — lead to the curmudgeon’s transformation.

While he tells the old story, Woods finds something new in every performance of his one-man adaptation. This year is no exception.

“I don’t see how it could be more relevant… Nearing the end of a tumultuous and personally difficult year,” Jason explains, “Charles Dickens’ wisdom is shining quietly, indifferent to petty concerns, present for those who are ready, teaching me that I am human; something we all must wrestle with joyfully, not judging others for walking the same path we tread.”

“Hope is present during this season,” Woods concludes, “and I am honored to become more aware of it through the words of Charles Dickens. “

Learn more about the Dec. 22 performance in Paris, Tenn., at http://www.jasonwoodsachristmascarol.com/.

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Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray, Ky. She can be reached at constancealexander@twc.com. Or visit her website.

Read all posts by Constance Alexander on KyForward

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