If all the world’s a stage, do actors really need to be up on one to perform?
That’s a big fat no from the Resident Ensemble Players, the University of Delaware’s professional acting troupe.
It’s put together a rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” as an audio production available for no charge to anyone who wants it.
The production will be available for streaming from Dec. 11 to Dec. 25 on the REP’s website. It also will be aired Friday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 12, at 10 p.m. on WVUD 91.3. You can also stream WVUD here.
While Dickens’ famous story of a miser haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future can be a holiday touchstone for many theaters and is frequently recreated on film, its historical roots lie off stage. Once the book was published, it was spread by public readings, including Dickens’ own, followed later by popular radio show broadcasts in the 1920s.
REP member and University of Delaware professor Kathleen Pirkl Tague makes her directorial debut with this show.
“I really love radio plays,” Tague said. “In spite of the fact that TV existed when I was a child, we did have a collection of radio plays and I loved listening to them.”
Tague didn’t necessarily pick this has her debut, but she was pleased to be asked to do it by artistic director Sandy Robbins.
“He said he thought I would do a good job of it,” Tague said, “probably because he knows I have a sentimental place in my heart for Christmas and all things supernatural.”
“A Christmas Carol” is about transformation, she said.
“It’s Scrooge’s transformation obviously, but it’s aided by supernatural energy, she said. “I think it is a miracle when people change. When people fundamentally transform, it’s miraculous.”
Tague had been thinking about directing before this opportunity and hopes to do more in the future.
“Oddly enough, most of my experience is with Shakespeare. There are some Shakespeare plays that I know more than anything,” Tague said. “I feel like, and I know this sounds arrogant, but I would like to direct Shakespeare. I think he is one of the most forgiving playwrights.”
Tague’s Husband, Steve Tague, also is an actor turned director. She says the time they have been able to spend together during COVID-19 restrictions and the discussions they have been able to have about directing have been endlessly helpful to her debut show.
“I’ve asked him many questions,” Pirkl Tague said. “He’s even directed A Christmas Carol before, so I’ve sometimes asked him about certain moments in the play. But one of the best ways he has helped me is with how to work with designers and actors.” \
She has been in hundreds of plays but found she had more to learn as a director.
“I’ve learned things like how to encourage actors to make a different choice without being insulting, how to bring out things from actors that I want more of, how to organize the time and how to know when to quit,” Pirkl Tague said. “That’s a big one. I’m finding that there’s times when I just want to keep going but there’s a time to quit, when it’s good, when it’s fine.”
Tague really enjoyed the experience of working with many of her friends and fellow performers.
“They’re all really spectacular professional actors,” Tague said. “But sometimes it’s challenging to give them direction.”
The most difficult aspect of directing this play has been doing rehearsals and recordings over Zoom calls, and the post audio production struggles that result from that.
Because the format in which they were recording the play was so unreliable, each individual part had to be separately recorded and layered on top of each other by a sound engineer.
“That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re cutting out pauses between lines and dialogue and putting it together,” Tague said. “The directing work is not as hard as the postproduction work; the postproduction work is BRUTAL.”