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‘God bless us, everyone!’

Project Shakespeare: Young woman takes on role of Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’

  • Project Shakespeare presents "A Christmas Carol" for its fifth year.
  • Project Shakespeare presents "A Christmas Carol" for its fifth year.
  • Project Shakespeare presents "A Christmas Carol" for its fifth year.
  • Project Shakespeare presents "A Christmas Carol" for its fifth year.
  • Project Shakespeare presents "A Christmas Carol" for its fifth year.
  • Project Shakespeare presents "A Christmas Carol" for its fifth year.
  • Project Shakespeare presents "A Christmas Carol" for its fifth year.

Ebenezer Scrooge has probably never looked like this. A grizzled, cantankerous old man played by a fresh-faced 17-year-old high school girl.

Cailin Ennis of Hancock is a very different Scrooge than usually graces the stage during Project Shakespeare’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” an on-stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic novel of a greedy miser who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. The children’s theater project has been running the production every year for the past five years. This is the first year a female has been cast as Scrooge, said director Deborah Thurber.

“Cailin is a very different Scrooge physically than we’ve had before,” Thurber said in a recent interview. “She’s a tall woman, and has a big, confident, commanding presence on stage, as opposed to this little old man that Scrooge is usually portrayed as. Scrooge is now a very commanding character. He’s physically more scary. This is a very heavy-footed character. It’ll be interesting to see how when he’s redeemed, and his spirit becomes very light, how she’s going to manifest that and physicalize it.”

Ennis, who has been in “A Christmas Carol” multiple years, said this is her first crack at playing Scrooge. Last year, she played the Ghost of Christmas Present, a role played this year by Christopher Commander, 21, of Jaffrey. Commander was Scrooge last year, Ennis noted in a interview at a rehearsal on Monday. The switching of roles has been interesting for her, she said.

“It’s been a nice interaction as far as being able to see the script and characters from these different angles,” noted Ennis.

Commander, who will be playing in his fourth “A Christmas Carol,” agreed, and added that the shifting in the cast is one of the things that keeps the annual performance from becoming stale.

“Because we’re switched, it’s changed the dynamics quite a bit,” said Commander. “The line readings are different. We both have different interpretations of Scrooge, which is also what makes this fresh. A different Scrooge changes the show to the nth degree. It’s like, everyone has a Hamlet within them. Everyone has a different Hamlet. Everyone has a different Scrooge in the same way.”

This year, Thurber will also be dealing with her largest-ever cast for “A Christmas Carol,” with over 30 children auditioning for roles, and more younger children than in the past, she noted. While adapting the play to fit the larger cast, Thurber found some surprises, she said. The Ghost of Christmas Past, who shows Scrooge his glory days as a young and lighthearted youth, is played by two people instead of one. The two speak their lines in resonance with each other, creating a echo effect that is very effective, she said. In the beginning of the novel, Scrooge rejects a request for charity from two men — in the Project Shakespeare adaptation, it’s a charity woman along with a group of children.

“It’s one thing to say no to two elderly men,” said Thurber. “It’s a whole other thing to say no to three children, looking up at you with big eyes. It informs the character of Scrooge in interesting ways. And the extra cast really helps to set up the town of London. It creates a community, and at the end you can really see how he is redeemed and accepted into this large community. To me, it’s fleshing out the story of redemption, family, community and the human connection that we celebrate at this time of year, and should celebrate all year.”

Jennifer Migotsky, 16, of Jaffrey, who has been involved in all five Project Shakespeare productions of the play, said the expanded cast this year has been very exciting to work with, having been involved in a smaller cast all the previous times. “I’ll have heard a particular line one way all these years, and now there’s a new person, who says it in a new way,” she said.

The additional cast members this year means that children are more able to focus on single parts, where in the past, one person might fill as many as five roles, noted Alexa Murray, 17, of Amherst, who is playing both Marley’s Ghost and the Ghost of Christmas Future this year.

“I think it really helps, because if you’re playing five characters, you can’t delve into the role as much as you can when you only have one or two,” said Murray.

Performances will be Friday at 7 p.m., Saturday at 1 p.m., both at the United Church of Jaffrey, 54 Main St., Jaffrey; Saturday at 7 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 47 Main St., Hancock; Dec. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Lucy Hurlin Theatre at ConVal High School, Peterborough; and Dec. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Antrim Town Hall, 66 Main St., Antrim. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

Proceeds from the performances will benefit Project Shakespeare’s “For England” Fund to send students to Stratford-upon-Avon in August 2014 to perform Hamlet at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s outdoor theatre, The Dell.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.

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