Athens Community Theatre’s (ACT) “A Christmas Carol,” which opens this evening, was adapted by Autumn Lowry Carusillo and J. Brad McKenzie. They decided to interview each other about the show for this week’s column:

Brad: Autumn, why was it so important for you to bring this classic story to the stage in Athens?

Autumn: I could say it’s because the story is a classic and one of my favorites, which are both true statements, but the real reason is that the story is transcendent. The story references characters and revolves around social issues that are still relevant today. Some are more relevant today than when this story was first written, which makes me sad and also inspires me to bring the story to our community. Brad, why did you agree to co-author this adaptation?

Brad: Because I had a good idea why you picked it and I thought maybe we had similar ideas about themes and characters. And when I begged you to let me, you finally relented.

Autumn: What matters most about this story, from your perspective?

Brad: It is about redemption of a character we are intended to dislike from the onset. We go from booing him to cheering him on, kind of like Rocky when he fought Drago in “Rocky IV.” More importantly, it is about the forgotten in society and our social contract to care for our fellow man.

Autumn: Tell me what your favorite part of our particular adaptation is and why.

Brad: You wrote the narration and I loved the way our narrator sets the scene, but also interjects what we believed Dickens meant while writing it. I love the way you balanced moving the story forward, but in an intentional way. There are a hundred other things I am pleased with that translate on stage so well. Autumn, is this a Christmas story or a ghost story?

Autumn: It’s obviously a ghost story with a little Christmas magic in between the pages.

Brad: Tell me what you think the central themes are and how they still have relevance today?

Autumn: So many, but the few that are most poignant to me are the distinction our society makes between the haves and have-nots, the worth of basic human kindness and goodwill, and the impact that remembering who we once were before life weathered us can have on the human heart. We read so many adaptations before deciding to pen our own. What makes our adaptation special or any different than all the rest?

Brad: It’s better. Seriously, all art is subject to interpretation, obviously, but I think we wanted to present all of the characters in a very realistic way — Scrooge in particular. He is a caricature in so many versions. If we couldn’t have an authentic and real Scrooge, I would have settled on Scrooge McDuck. Of course that would have cost more in licensing.

Talk about our cast for a moment.

Autumn: Sometimes, things are just meant to be. Our Ebenezer is quite different; he’s younger, hardened by hard-knocks and poor choices he has made, but he has a lot of time left to heal and life left to live. Our ghosts aren’t just present to convince Scrooge to change, but are reminders to all of us about the shadows of our past, how precious time is in the present, and to warn us of regrets we might have. The folks who came to audition fell into these specific roles like they were made for them and breathed life into our script just as we’d written it, as we’d imagined it for months.

Brad: Agreed. You were so specific about costumes and the set. Tell me why those things are so important in a show.

Autumn: I am a “minimalist” when it comes to set design. I want the audience to focus on our actors and the depth of the characters. That said, there are a few set pieces that mattered to me. A friend lent me her father’s quill and ink set that he left to her and Charles Dickens gets to use it in the show. The books on the desks are intentional — either works of Dickens himself or beloved past shows such as “Of Mice and Men” and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Costumes were special for two reasons, the first being that they help tell the story and help illustrate the passage of time and set the mood for each scene. The other is that I wanted each actor to feel special in their costume(s) so they could immerse themselves into the characters in the story. I think we accomplished that. It’s the most wonderful (and busy) time of the year, so they say. Why should people come see our show?

Brad: I love the timing of this show. It’s before the holidays get too crazy, but when we all are starting to feel the pull of this time of year, which is a good thing for some people and tragic for others. I hope this show can provide an outlet for everyone to walk out of the building feeling better. Thank you for allowing me to be part of this. Any last words?

Autumn: Thanks for journeying alongside me. I want our cast to know how proud I am of them, of what they have poured into these roles, the time they have spent on each meticulous note, line, etc. to give us what we wanted. I know it couldn’t have been easy performing for the folks who wrote it, but yet they have done so with gusto, grace, and an energy that is contagious. I couldn’t be happier with them and I want the whole community to come see their hard work. Speaking of that ...

“A Christmas Carol” runs from Nov. 15-24 and ticket information is available at The Arts Center staff is hosting a canned food drive for Coordinated Charities on Nov. 23 and offering $2 off the ticket price for folks who donate.

We hope to haunt you all with our three ... well, technically four favorite ghosts, and maybe spread a little Christmas cheer while we are at it.

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