Think it’s a busy month for Santa Claus? Try being Ebenezer Scrooge. Charles Dickens’ unlikely holiday hero is everywhere these days, re-enacting his classic Christmas Eve conversion (aided by a few friendly ghosts) on countless stages and screens worldwide—even here in Alaska. We at Perseverance Theatre were lucky enough to snag a few moments with Mr. Scrooge, the formerly misanthropic megastar himself, while the Anchorage cast of A Christmas Carol were making their final preparations for this weekend’s opening at the PAC. He kindly agreed (yes, he’s really kind now) to answer our questions. Heartfelt thanks to actor J. Todd Adams, a stage veteran* taking his first turn as Scrooge this season, for facilitating the exchange.
- In A Christmas Carol, we witness scenes from your past that might hold keys to your miserable present, on that fateful Christmas Eve. But what did it, really? When did Ebenezer become Scrooge?
Thanks for asking that! So many people see me as the epitome of selfish misanthropy, forgetting that I had a lonely, friendless childhood and a distant father. I had a reason for becoming the man you all know, even if the Ghosts eventually thaw my icy heart by showing me all I lost in pursuing that reason so relentlessly.
Belle, my onetime fiancé, hit the nail on the head when she told me, “You fear the world too much” and wish to be “beyond the chance of its sordid reproach.” Poverty puts you at the mercy of others, so I pursued wealth to build a wall around my heart that would protect from the pain and vulnerability of being reliant on my fellow men. Wealth was a means to independence and security in a merciless world, but of course I made the pursuit of it my “master-passion” and was fortunate to be shown the consequences. Thank you, Spirits, for reminding me that I once loved and was loved, and that life is so much more fulfilling when lived in connection to mankind.
- Your counting-house clerk, Bob Cratchit, is a deeply sympathetic character in the play, while you, Scrooge, come off as the Boss from Hell. Is this a fair portrayal? What aren’t we seeing?
Well, in hindsight, I admit that I was a tyrannical boss to a kind and dedicated employee—but try to see my earlier point of view. Without me and my entrepreneurial spirit, Bob Cratchit would have been out on the street. I provided him employment and a means to support his family. As he himself describes me in a toast over Christmas dinner, I am “the Founder of the Feast.”
Of course, when I was young, I had an employer full of love and generosity who showed me that there is no need to make the lives of those dependent on you a living hell. Old Fezziwig taught me what I hope to practice going forward, that kindness and joy and generosity can and should be shown to those who work for and with you.
- Tiny Tim. Is he really as adorable as he seems?
He is. And he immediately touched my heart with his cheerful outlook and kind spirit. I would have just felt sorry for myself.
- What can you tell us about the young man who’s currently impersonating you at Perseverance Theatre, this J. Todd Adams character—are you sure he’s up to the job?
Well he’s certainly younger and more dashing than I am, but he’s capturing my surly temperament quite effectively. I suspect there’s a bit of bitterness in his disposition that he has to fight to suppress, so I’m glad he can let it out in playing me. Let’s hope it will exhaust itself and leave him as hopeful and happy as I feel now!
- Now that you’ve come around, what advice do you have for those of us who still struggle to be merry at holiday time? We don’t all have the benefit of ghostly visitors, vivid nocturnal flashbacks, and other theatrical effects; how do you keep your own spirits up, when a long, dark winter gets you down?
Well, as happy a time as Christmas is, it’s easy to let it overwhelm you and cause more stress than joy. I used to say “Bah!” when feeling those things, but now I say “Ah!” Jump in! Sing a song, visit a friend, build a snowman. Give of yourself and you’ll get far more than I ever did when I thought only of myself. Love and connect with family, friends, and even strangers. And remember the magic of Christmas that you felt when you were young. It will make you young again!
Mr. Scrooge, thank you—and break a leg!
*Here’s a bit more about J. Todd Adams, a.k.a. Ebenezer Scrooge, in case you’re curious:
J. Todd Adams is pleased to return to Perseverance Theatre after playing De Guiche in Cyrano de Bergerac last season. He has performed at the Utah Shakespeare Festival (four seasons), Great Lakes Theatre (five seasons), Idaho Shakespeare Festival (four seasons), Shakespeare Santa Cruz (four seasons), North Coast Repertory Theatre, Pioneer Theatre Company, DCPA Theatre Company, PCPA, South Coast Repertory, Mark Taper Forum, Ahmanson Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, Arizona Theatre Company, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Grove Theatre Center, A Noise Within, and Theatre @ Boston Court. His film and television credits include The West Wing, Gilmore Girls, Flyboys, and Warriors of Virtue. He received his M.F.A. in acting from the American Conservatory Theater.