Here, from Christmases Future, DTC's "Ghost" Speaks
Part of the fun of Dallas Theater Center's huge production of A Christmas Carol, opening Friday night for a three-week run at Kalita Humphreys Theater, is seeing who plays the ghosts that visit Ebenezer Scrooge. In the spooky adaptation by Richard Hellesen of Charles Dickens' immortal story of greed v. poverty, the ghosts take Scrooge, portrayed this year by Kurt Rhoads, on a journey through time. He revisits his lonely childhood, sees how he screwed up his relationship with his onetime fiancée and learns how his narcissism has affected everyone around him. Then comes the terrifying Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, a hooded specter who shows Scrooge his own grave and warns that if he doesn't change his ways, he'll soon occupy it -- with no one bothering to mourn his passing.
Photo by Karen Almond Dallas Theater Center's A Christmas Carol
DTC and director Joel Ferrell like to keep the identity of said ghost a secret till show time. But we know who it is. And he's ready to talk.
Wearing the black cloak and stilts as the last, best ghost in A Christmas Carol this year is Dallas actor and voice teacher Alex Ross, making his first appearance in the annual classic. (He was last seen at DTC as a singer and dancer in Cabaret last spring.) Ross also plays young Ebenezer in the flashbacks and shows up as a wassail-quaffing party guest in scenes at Scrooge's nephew Fred's home. But it's his role as the Ghost that he hopes makes an impact on theatergoers.
You were born in England so this Dickens stuff must seem pretty familiar, right?
Karen Almond Alex Ross
Alex Ross: Actually, I'd never seen A Christmas Carol before. I'd only read it. So I went into it as a brand new experience.
Describe your ghostliness.
I wear a big black cloak that covers my whole body. I have a hood and long sleeves and my face is covered in black netting. I'm also wearing black gloves and carrying a 10-foot staff that looks like a giant ballpoint pen. I use it to draw Scrooge's grave. And I'm on two-foot-tall stilts. With shoes, that makes me about 8-1/2 feet tall. And I have to ride the turntable on the stage. That's fun.
But your character doesn't speak, does he?
No. I don't have the crutch of text to lean on. I started to add in some gestures here and there along with the sound cues. The gestures have to be grand but they have to be slow as well. This ghost has to be larger than life.
You've done a few previews and some school audiences. What's the reaction so far?
We had our first student matinee the other day. They were absolutely bonkers. They were totally eating up every scary moment. The feedback so far is that while there is a lot of theater magic and tricks, this adaptation and the way it's so narrative driven, people are buying into the story.
When Scrooge suggests that the children of the poor be sent to orphanages, he sounds like Newt Gingrich. Do you think there's still a lot of relevance in A Christmas Carol to how the haves treat the have-nots?
Definitely. I feel like what you get at the end of the story is, it's not just about looking after those who are your same class and stature ... when Scrooge humbles himself to the little girl at the end of the show, it speaks to how we should treat each other today. And it's not enough for a certain amount of people to receive - everyone needs a helping hand.
DTC asks every audience for a donation to the North Texas Food Bank after the curtain call. Good time to hit up folks for money?
It's an interesting thing going on. We have a lot of actors onstage who are often unemployed. Several of us have volunteered at the Food Bank, which is a great experience for anyone. And now we're telling this wonderful story. People have been responding amazingly. I love that we're supporting that charity.
If your Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come could speak, what would he say?
I hope I scare some people into donating some money and living their life in the past, present and future. It's a scary show. But it really gets people at the end. There's such a warm feeling when people are leaving that theater.
See Alex Ross, Kurt Rhoads, Lee Trull, Steven Walters, Abbey Siegworth and a bunch of cute kids in Dallas Theater Center's A Christmas Carol through December 24 at Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd. Tickets, 214-880-0202.