Theatre Department brings Christmas tale to stage

Matthew Morgan, who portrays Ebenezer Scrooge, hears the voice of the dead Jacob Marley in a Nov. 11 practice. “I’m a very happy and loving person, but playing someone who starts out so nasty is fun,” Morgan  said. “It’s kind of like playing the villain in a way. Everybody wants to play the villain.”

Christmas is coming early this year with UNA Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17 – 20 at Norton Auditorium.

The play tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and how his personality changes on Christmas Eve with supernatural help.

“It’s a beautiful story,” said Charlton James, associate professor of theatre. “It tells the transition of a man who, like most of us, is affected by life, and life affected him in a way that turned him into a scrooge. Through watching this play, you get to see the transition of that man to someone who is thankful to be alive and willing to love.”

James said he asked professional actor Matthew Morgan, who is from Las Vegas, to play Scrooge.

“When I bring in guest artists, I try to bring in people who can offer something that I can’t offer students,” James said. “I hope that the students are watching him and seeing how physical he is. That’s why I brought Matt in for this show. I think that Scrooge needs that physicality. He needs to be likable, or the story gets boring, and we don’t care about him.”

Freshman Maggie Freeman plays a variety of roles in the play. She said her favorite part has been working with Morgan.

“It’s been really cool,” she said. “It helps everyone go up to a different level. We bounce off of his level. We’ve learned to understand what he means when he asks us to do something.”

Freeman said there will also be children from the community participating in the play.

James said this version will have funnier moments than others.

“With our version of it, you like Scrooge,” he said. “In watching other versions, I don’t like Scrooge. I think the way Matt is delivering it and how I’m directing it, we are hoping Scrooge is likable, so that you love him from the beginning. I think we accomplish that through his physical humor.”

Morgan said it has been fascinating to play this character in this manner.

“I’m a very happy and loving person, but playing someone who starts out so nasty is fun,” he said. “It’s kind of like playing the villain in a way. Everybody wants to play the villain. So, to be able to explore some of that and find comedy and heart in that character has been interesting.”

James said while he is directing the play, he will briefly act alongside Morgan.

“I’ve always wanted to act in the play,” he said. “I’ve always been a little jealous because at heart I am an actor. I was a little selfish when I brought Matt in. So, I will be playing Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s dead business partner.”

Morgan said all the actors in the play worked together to create this production.

“The actors are moving their own set pieces, and they’re helping the others change costumes,” he said. “I think that it’s well acted, and the set is beautiful. I think all of those components make this production a unique one.”

Freeman said there are different elements which made it fun working on the play.

“It was good having the set already built from previous shows,” she said. “It gave us a lot more time to focus on the acting instead of working on the tech.”

James said people should go because it is a relateable story.

“We have the choice to either be a scrooge in life or be somebody who realizes that it’s a better choice to make yourself available to be loved,” he said. “When people leave the theater, they feel good. They feel good about the story they just saw, and they see hope in the world.”

Tickets cost $5 for students and $15 for adults.