Ghosts in The Geary: A.C.T.'s A Christmas Carol

Original Costume Sketch of the Ghost of Christmas Present.
By Costume Designer Beaver Bauer.
This interview is adapted from the Christmas Carol edition of Words on Plays, A.C.T.’s in-depth performance guide series.

Along with the curmudgeonly Scrooge and the adorable Tiny Tim, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are the most well-known and loved characters in Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. But how do you translate these larger-than-life entities on to the Geary stage? Carey Perloff, A.C.T.’s artistic director and the co-writer of this adaptation of A Christmas Carol, offered her insight on Dickens’s seasonal spirits in this 2010 Q&A.

What was your inspiration for the three ghosts in this adaptation of A Christmas Carol?
I wanted them to be otherworldly spirits, filled with light, and not like ordinary humans. Their locomotion is different: they swing and rise up on elevators; they hang above like specters.

What can you share about the ghost of Christmas Present?
In the book, Christmas Present is described as a Bacchic spirit of fecundity, an image of the cornucopia, wearing a green velvet robe, growing holly and leaves, with fruit hanging everywhere, emanating light and exuding fertility. Christmas Present is about seduction, in a way: sensual and lively and very pleasurable, with the vibrancy and light of the present moment that you wish Scrooge would enter into.

What about Christmas Future?
The ghost of Christmas Future is about terrorizing somebody with the potential consequences of his behavior. So in our production, the ghost is an evanescent specter, a puppet made of mesh that rises up above the Geary stage, reminding and warning Scrooge of what will happen to him and his own culture if he doesn’t take responsibility for contributing to the world around him.
Original Costume Sketch of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
By Costume Designer Beaver Bauer.

And Christmas Past?
Christmas Past is a flickering candle. This emanating light is important because it’s the symbol of the imagination, that Scrooge’s mind is about to be “enlightened.” There is a metaphor throughout the play of Scrooge’s blindness. People say to him, “Open your eyes, blind man. Look up.” But he can’t see. Literally, he cannot see what they are offering him. He can’t remember his own past. He can’t see how wonderful Fred and Mary and his family are, that there is a community out there for him. So, the journey of the piece from darkness into light is also a man’s journey from blindness into seeing, into opening his eyes to the possibilities of the world—and the candle is the flickering beginning.

How does Dickens use these spirits to get across his own motives?
We are charting several different actions: What is each spirit trying to do to Scrooge? How does he resist? How can we make him resist as long as possible, to keep it dramatic? When we did this adaptation, we realized that Dickens really thought that every individual carries the potential to change themselves, to change the way people are treated, to change the world.

Come celebrate the holidays with us! A.C.T.'s production of A Christmas Carol runs from November 25 through December 24 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website

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