A Christmas Carol: A place where memory and imagination intersect

Christmas-carol andy  large
© Matt Marnes

A Christmas Carol is one of the most produced shows in Canada. Last year alone, there were 36 productions across the country. And this December, it will be here in the NAC Theatre.

Long before rehearsals begin, Jillian Keiley, Artistic Director of NAC English Theatre and Director of A Christmas Carol, has been asking herself and her team some big questions: Why is this show so popular? How do we get the audience to use their imagination and not just their memory?

What Jillian and Designer Bretta Gerecke came up with is a testament to their own creative process. In the first 15 minutes of the play, every audience member will handle a wide variety of objects relevant to the story – things like small models of Scrooge’s counting house and his nephew’s party house. On stage, the story will unfold on an all-white set. “Almost like a blank canvas, but with simple but powerful pieces to indicate where we are. The audience will remember each talisman they held in their hands and by imagination transpose it onto our white stage – our canvas,” says Jillian. 

Jillian has cast a blind actor, Bruce Horak, to play the role of the Ghost of Christmas Past as well as the narrator. “Bruce introduces the concept,” says Jillian. “He lives at the intersection of memory and imagination and will invite the audience to join him there.”

Jack Volpe, a Deaf actor, will be the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come – the ghost who can see the future, but who will not speak. “This is an opportunity to introduce audiences to great artists from the Deaf and disabled communities,” says Jillian. “Jack and Bruce are both talented performers and come from a sector of society that doesn’t get represented on stage very often.”

Jillian would like to see that change. “It’s our responsibility to serve a broad public and make theatre accessible to everyone,” she says. “That includes audience members as well. They want to see their world reflected on stage and it’s wonderful to be able to offer that.”

A Christmas Carol will run in the NAC Theatre from December 13 to 31. American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation will be provided for the December 18 matinée.

A Christmas Carol is part of the NAC’s Share the Spirit program presented by Sun Life Financial – the eighth year for Share the Spirit, an initiative aimed at families who, for economic or health reasons, may not have the opportunity to enjoy live performances at the NAC.

Share the Spirit is made possible through the support of Presenting Sponsor Sun Life Financial, a Donor-Advised Fund at the Community Foundation of Ottawa at the Associate Partner level, and Supporting Partners The Honourable John Manley, P.C. O.C. & Mrs. Judith Manley, Glenview Management Limited and the Leacross Foundation, as well as other donors who have contributed to Share the Spirit through the NAC Foundation Donors’ Circle. Visit nac-cna.ca/share

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