Thirteen-year-old Ben Michaud leads Project Shakespeare’s “A Christmas Carol” as youngest-ever Scrooge

  • Ben Michaud, 13, of Peterborough began his journey with Project Shakespeare's annual performance of “A Christmas Carol” as Tiny Tim, and this year, is the production's youngest-ever Ebenezer Scrooge. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Ben Michaud, 13, of Peterborough as Ebenezer Scrooge, is shown his fate by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Ben Michaud, 13, of Peterborough as Ebenezer Scrooge laments his mistakes that lead to his future dying alone and unloved. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Director Deborah Thurber gives stage direction to Ben Michaud, 13, of Peterborough as Ebenezer Scrooge during an all-day rehearsal of “A Christmas Carol” Saturday. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Ben Michaud, 13, of Peterborough as Ebenezer Scrooge quakes in fear when confronted by the ghost of former business partner Jacob Marley. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Ben Michaud, 13, of Peterborough as Ebenezer Scrooge is shown his future by the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • Ben Michaud, 13, of Peterborough as Ebenezer Scrooge quakes in fear when confronted by the ghost of former business partner Jacob Marley. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—

  • ">

    Ben Michaud of Peterborough as Tiny Tim in his first production of "A Christmas Carol" with Project Shakespeare. Courtesy photo—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/6/2021 11:54:28 AM
Modified: 12/6/2021 11:54:16 AM

When 13-year-old Ben Michaud of Peterborough was in kindergarten, he had a fateful encounter.

His substitute teacher was Deborah Thurber, director of the children’s theater group Project Shakespeare.

“I’ve wanted to be on stage my whole life,” Ben told Thurber, upon learning she directed plays.

“All five years of it,” Thurber said, recalling the story.

It was the start of Ben’s involvement with Project Shakespeare, that year joining the cast of “As You Like It,” for the summer production, and that winter, becoming Tiny Tim for the annual production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

In his eighth time performing in “A Christmas Carol,” Ben is playing the lead – Ebenezer Scrooge – and is the youngest in the program’s long history to play the role.

Last year, the show went on, despite COVID-19, but had to be virtual, explained Thurber, but this year, she was determined to get the show back on stage.

“It was fun and cool to be able to do things with kids across the state, but it’s the getting together and gathering, and knowing that this one performance will be different from the next one, the sense of ‘Only now are we gathering to do this,’ is so important in theater. It’s what’s kept me doing this for the past 27 years,” Thurber said.

So, the performance is live again this year, but in deference to COVID-19 precautions, Thurber has required the entire cast to have received their vaccinations – limiting the usually expansive cast to those over the age of 12. It’s pared down from its usual 25 to 35 cast members to just 11 this year.

This has led to some changes in how the play is run. There are fewer, simpler costumes to allow for the cast to play multiple parts to fill out various scenes, but Thurber said that’s a tradition of Project Shakespeare’s productions anyway. No two performances of “A Christmas Carol” are ever exactly alike, and the script is revised each year. 

With some of her senior cast also not participating, Thurber said Ben was the most-senior cast member available to play the lead who was willing to take on the role. Usually, she said, the part of Scrooge goes to a graduating senior, meaning Ben is her youngest-ever lead. But she has no doubts in his ability to carry the production, she said.

“Ben has a real mind for storytelling and language,” Thurber said. “You don’t get into children’s theater to produce professional actors, but every once in awhile you get one that it’s a passion for. And it’s down to his bones.”

Ben said acting is something he wants to pursue after high school, and he dreams of studying drama at Oxford University. He said that dream has its roots in his experience at Project Shakespeare.

Ben has a particular soft spot in his heart for “A Christmas Carol,” he said, and hopes to eventually get to play all the parts in a production.

“This is a story I quite like,” he said. He collects different versions of the story, with his first exposure to the story, “Mickey’s Christmas Carol,” remaining one of his favorites.

The message of the story is what stands out to him, he said.

“Christmas is a valuable time. It’s a time of family, to be with the ones you love. And it’s a time of redemption. Even if you’ve had a bad year, you can decide to start new. That’s what I like about it,” Ben said.

Scrooge was his golden ring, and he said he had not expected to get to play it this early, but was still thrilled to be offered the part.

“I thought it would be my final bow, but I was excited. I remember pumping my fist, and high-fiving my mom,” Ben said of the moment he was offered the part. “I’m happy, and excited to be able to do this on stage this year.”

Ben said while he was happy to still be able to participate last year, he’s glad that his debut as Scrooge is in front of a live audience.

“It means the world to me,” he said. “At its heart, it’s always been a play for me, not a film.”

Having been in the play so many years, and see it evolve, Ben said he took inspiration in his approach to the character from a character added a few years ago – a child, speaking to narrating Charles Dickens, who questions what kind of man Scrooge is.

“I think Scrooge is a businessman,” Ben said. “He’s not evil – he’s greedy. He made sacrifices to get rich, and we see that he ultimately regrets that throughout his life. He wants to turn back time and fix it.”

In addition to Ben, the cast includes Brayden Boice, Brooke and Molly Burman, Maya Fredrickson, Zeph Marean, Helen Martynuska, Lif Petrova, Aurora Sousa, Sophia Spingola and Indigo Wolf.

The first performance of “A Christmas Carol” is scheduled for Dec. 17 at the First Congregational Church in Rindge at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children under 12.

There are two shows scheduled at Aldworth Manor, located at 184 Aldworth Manor Road in Harrisville, on Dec. 18, at 4 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $60 and includes a dinner. There is a limited audience space of 40 people.

The run concludes Dec. 19 with two shows at the Hancock Inn at 33 Main St. in Hancock, at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children under 12. Seating is limited. Dinner reservations are available seperately by calling the Hancock Inn & Fox Tavern at 603-525-3318.

Tickets are available at the door for the Dec. 17 performance. Reservations are required for the Aldworth Manor and Hancock Inn shows. To make a reservation, contact Thurber at projectshakespeare@gmail.com.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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