Christmas Past takes Scrooge for a ride

Every Christmas it seems, there are several versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol being performed on stage and screen, yet how often do you find one that not only urges us to be more considerate of our fellow human beings, but also embodies the spirit of giving through its own direct efforts to help the less fortunate.


Such a production took to the boards in Portland, Oregon, in December reminding us that the Christmas spirit is alive and well, sometimes in the most unlikely places.


Charlotte Dickens tucks Scrooge in for the nightNo Illusions Theatre at the Doll Gardner Gallery on Oleson Rd. sold out its three benefit performances of the world premiere of A Scrooge Mart Christmas Carol and raised over $3,000 to provide health care for the Tiny Tims among us.


This was no black-tie affair attended by the super-rich to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for a well-established nonprofit organization, the sort of thing that gets covered in the society pages of the local newspapers.  No, this was a grassroots effort of ordinary people, many of whom struggle to make a living, but who nonetheless felt the need to put their money where their hearts were this holiday season.


The play by poet/playwright Laurence Overmire, who co-directed with Nancy McDonald, was produced, amazingly in this day and age, without a budget and sported a huge cast of 25 performers from all over the greater Portland area, including Jim Becker as Scrooge, Salena Sanford as Charlotte Dickens, Scott Sandberg as Bob Cratchit, Willie Nelson as Tiny Tim, David Rohrer as Christmas Past, Barb Fankhauser as Christmas Present, Paul Reich as Christmas Future, Roland Jarka as Wenceslas and Marty Deer as the Page.  Everyone involved contributed their time and ample talents with no remuneration so that 100% of the proceeds could go directly to the three-year-old SW Community Health Center, a dedicated safety-net clinic providing basic health care to the uninsured.


King Wenceslas and Page with ScroogeA wildly entertaining, yet poignant update of the Dickens classic, A Scrooge Mart Christmas Carol posed the question, “What sort of Christmas Carol would Charles Dickens write if he were alive today?”  In answer, we found Scrooge as the CEO of the retail giant Scrooge Mart with Bob Cratchit as his put-upon, minimum-wage-with-no-benefits employee.  The play took the audience on a thrilling ride with the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, through the fifties and sixties and into the complicated issues of the 21st century, all the while asking us to consider the true spirit of the holiday season.


At least for this one weekend, an un-Scrooge-like generosity prevailed.  And the message of peace on earth, goodwill to all, regardless of race, gender or creed seemed like a real possibility, something more than just a quaint idea that will always be out of reach.


 Christmas Present warns Scrooge about Ignorance and Want