This holiday season (2016), Ford’s Theatre celebrates 35 years of presenting A Christmas Carol, and acclaimed Washington actor Craig Wallace steps into the role of Ebenezer Scrooge for the first time. We spoke with Wallace this summer about what he’s most looking forward to about taking on this classic role.
For many in the region, coming to Ford’s Theatre for A Christmas Carol is an annual tradition. Why do you think the story is so timeless?
Wallace: The lesson that Scrooge learns in the play is that genuine happiness is found in what we do for others. This simple idea unites Dickens’s divided characters, and I think it has real resonance in the often polarized, materialistic world we live in now.
You regularly perform works of Shakespeare. How might your experience with other classic texts translate to this project?
Wallace: I’ve actually done two prior productions of A Christmas Carol – as Marley’s Ghost at Milwaukee Rep and as the Ghost of Christmas Past at Geva Theatre Center. Compared with the 30 titles I’ve done of Shakespeare’s! I find them remarkably similar; while Dickens’s text is not in verse, his language, like Shakespeare’s, is heightened and lyrical and demands a bold and passionate delivery.
What is your favorite part of A Christmas Carol?
Wallace: It would have to be Scrooge’s encounter with Marley’s ghost. First of all, it’s terrifying, but secondarily, it sets up everything that is to follow. And it allows an audience to see Scrooge in a genuinely vulnerable state. For a moment, he really listens to another character. I mean, Marley was his only friend.
What are you most looking forward to about playing Ebenezer Scrooge? Is there anything especially surprising about the character?
Wallace: I look forward to navigating Scrooge’s journey, the journey from who he was and is to who he becomes. I look forward to experiencing him experiencing joy.
Scrooge is on stage for nearly the entire two-hour show. What tricks of the trade do you employ to keep your energy up during such lengthy performances?
Wallace: I don’t have any tricks. The responsibility of keeping each performance fresh and alive for the audience is all the incentive I need!
YOu've Performed in nearly 10 productions at Ford’s Theatre. What draws you back to work here so often?
Wallace: I’ve come to cherish the relationships I’ve forged with the amazing staff and artists at Ford’s, and the productions I’ve been in have proven challenging, enriching and a joy to perform. Ford’s really does espouse the values of Lincoln in the work it chooses to stage; my experiences in The Laramie Project and Necessary Sacrifices are perfect examples.
Would you rather be visited by the ghost of Christmas Past, Present or Future? Which Christmas from your past would you visit? Why?
Wallace: I’d prefer a visit from the ghost of Christmas Past because apparently that begins my journey toward enlightenment. If one is going to be given the opportunity to be reborn, it’s important to start at the beginning! I’d step back into any one of my childhood Christmases as they were all filled with presents, family and love.
What do you hope audiences will take away when seeing the production?
Wallace: Inasmuch as I hope the show infuses audiences with all of the hope and love and spirit of the season, I also hope it affords them the chance to view Christmas through the eyes of those less fortunate. And may it stir their compassion and their conscience.
Lauren Beyea is Associate Director of Communications and Marketing at Ford’s Theatre, where she oversees media relations. She is editor of the Ford’s Theatre Blog. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenBeyea.