Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Adapted from the Civic's Annual Production of Charles Dickens'
A Christmas Carol

Directed by Dr. Kerry Shanklin

About the Adaptation

Charles Dickens completed A Christmas Carol in 1843, after serial installments in the local newspaper. Immediately popular, it had a long life as a novella, a short novel. Yet, not until the late 19th Century and into 20th Century was his story dramatized, first for the stage, and then for film and then, television.

At issue is the “dramatizing” part, because the move from words on the page to action and language in time and space is not easy. Indeed, its original title was A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story for Christmas. Dickens himself offered readings of his own, which were somewhat popular, and even he had to rewrite large sections for a listening audience. The latter part of the 19th Century saw British Actor Seymour Hicks touring the country with his own adaption, which was quite banal even for his time. Hicks would later star in a shortened version of Dickens’ story for the nascent cinema, in 1901.

Not until 1953 was A Christmas Carol fully dramatized – a literary work into a drama – by Noel Langley. Langley was gifted at converting literature into drama and visual narrative, receiving the Academy Award for Screenwriting for adapting another popular work of fiction, The Wizard of Oz. The result was the movie, Scrooge, that sidestepped the literacy of the work by creating scenes out of the dialogue, and by externalizing the interior thoughts of Ebenezer Scrooge. According to critic A. O. Scott of The New York Times, this film is the best one ever made of the Dickens classic, and credit is given to its dramatization of the original.

An example of this is the scene immediately following Scrooge’s conversion. In the novella, most of it is a conversation Scrooge has with himself, now made open with a scene with his maid, Mrs. Dilber. Another is the invention of the scene of Fan’s death. In the novella, the passing of Scrooge’s beloved sister is only mentioned in passing. The added scene gives the entire work clear dramatic action, giving reason to Scrooge’s distain for his nephew. An extension of Dickens’ work, not a modernization or retooling for the marketplace.

The radio play provided by the Columbus Civic Theater is derived from their annual production. Ever since 2010, the Civic has provided Columbus with this annual event, and this year being no exception, save the transition to another medium.