‘A full, cheerful production’:

Q and A with actor Gary ‘Scrooge’ Young

n What are you bringing to Scrooge in 2012 that is different from 2006, 2002 or 1998?

I don’t know if there is anything different, given that Dickens’ Christmas Carol has been around since 1843. That said, it still remains timely in this season and in these times. In many ways we owe our present-day celebration of Christmas to Charles Dickens. In rereading his novella and by watching this year’s CAST production, or even viewing “The Muppets Christmas Carol,” we can be infused with Dickens intention for this holiday celebration. The life story of Ebenezer Scrooge — and therefore Christmas — is about, as his nephew Fred puts it, “… As a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time. When men and women open their shut-up hearts freely, and … think of other people as if they really were fellow passengers to the grave.”

I believe we first performed Christmas Carol as a “radio theater” followed, over the years, by full performances at the old CAST Theater and a dinner theater at the Hood River Hotel. Actually, I don’t have an accurate count of how many times I’ve played Scrooge. Wonder if the HRN has the definitive count?

n How, overall, is the experience different for you, given the cast, director, staging, etc.?

Past performances have had small casts, around 10, I believe, with actors playing multiple roles. In this year’s production, you’ll still have actors playing multiple roles but Richard Parker, our director, has put his stamp on this production by expanding the cast to 30, adding traditional Christmas music and dance. So what you will see this year, thanks to Richard’s vision, is a full, cheerful production.

n Is there a change in how one approaches Scrooge and his transformation in 2012, compared to earlier times?

Scrooge’s transformation is always complete and that is one of the joys of each production. I always enjoy saying those last words about my friend Ebenezer: “He became as good a friend, as good a master, as good a man as the good old City ever knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough in the good old world.” Isn’t that what we would all wish for ourselves? It would be a better world if each of us had the courage of Ebenezer “to forsake our foolish ways” and to embrace change with joy. But, it is a difficult journey, perhaps only possible with ghostly help. It is not easy to hear hard words, to accept the truth of our lives, and “forbear our wicked cant.”

The line that has often reverberated through my mind are the words of the Ghost of Christmas Present, when he introduces Scrooge to a boy, Want, and girl, Ignorance: “Beware them both, for on their brows is written doom unless the writing be erased.” Christmas time is a time of doubling down and eradicating such limited possibilities from the brows of each boy, girl, man and woman and assuring each of an open and hopeful future.

n What are you enjoying most about the production?

As part of my Christmas tradition, I read this story every year. I have yet to have a year go by without learning or finding something new in Dickens’ story worth celebrating and joyfully embracing. I hope many people will attend this year’s production — and, I hope, seeing Christmas Carol come to life will be a gift they fondly remember.

n “Why Scrooge? Is this story still relevant?”Oh my, yes — the story is very much relevant given where we are as a country and were we are regarding the “fiscal cliff.” Perhaps, it would be good if Congress and the president would first sit down and watch a performance of Christmas Carol before debating. If they reflected on the story, I believe it could change the context of the debate.

So, will our elected officials reflect the old Scrooge who thought that supporting the institutions of the Treadmill, Workhouses and the Poor Law was enough? Or, will they listen to Marley’s words: “Mankind was my business. Charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business”? There is no doubt in my mind, that Charles Dickens’ character, the redeemed Ebenezer Scrooge, would agree that in our day, Charity, Mercy, Forbearance and Benevolence is still the business at hand.

And lastly, in Scrooge’s words, let me say: “A Merry Christmas to Everyone! A Happy New Year to all the world.”

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