A Christmas Carol production set to be performed over Zoom

U of I theatre department stages virtual reading of Christmas classic; showings will be Dec. 4-13



The cast of “A Christmas Carol” practices for the upcoming show.

JOEL KEMEGUE, Evergreen mint editor

The University of Idaho’s theatre department is bringing a taste of Christmas to the Palouse this holiday season with their online production of “A Christmas Carol.”

The show was adapted by U of I student Kendra Phillips, as part of the master’s in fine arts playwriting program. It was originally set to be produced next year. Director Craig Miller said the Theatre Arts department planned to perform the play, “Can’t Take It With You,” in December, but with the switch to remote learning they were unable to produce it over zoom and decided to switch to “A Christmas Carol.”

The show will be performed through a virtual stage reading where the actors will have their scripts in front of them but will still be in costume, directly addressing the camera. Miller said the switch to virtual reading allowed for more time to adjust the script.

U of I professor David Lee-Painter, who plays Scrooge, said he previously played the role as an undergrad almost thirty years ago and was eager to return to the stage. 

“Now playing him at 60 is a whole new thing, and I am so moved by his journey and the things he learns, so I’m grateful to say these words again and be in this situation again all these years later,” Lee-Painter said.

Miller said producing the show through Zoom lacks the energy actors and crew get practicing in person, and the feeling of performing through a computer screen rather than to a live audience will, too. Still, Miller said adapting to performing online was a fun challenge for everyone involved.

“It’s a very lonely proposition for the actors but nonetheless it’s a pretty dynamic and awesome way to watch a story being told,” Miller said. “I think if you ask any theatre artist you would find … this is nothing like we were trained to do, but in that way, it’s an incredible challenge.”

Lee-Painter said that though the feeling of watching theatre through Zoom or online is different from seeing it live, he doesn’t feel it is any weaker.

[Live theatre is] a shared experience, it’s having a communion with an actor and the audience at the same time, and we think somehow that’s going to be diminished in a Zoom experience and it isn’t, Lee-Painter said. I still feel like when I see a good Zoom production that I’m being touched in that moment.

Miller said with the show, they want to create a space for their audience and actors to take a break from the rest of the world and remind themselves of who they are and what they hold dear.

“I think that what [A Christmas Carol] does for us at this time of year is not only remind us to revel and rejoice in being together as families, or friends or fellow human beings, but that we have this moment whether we’re sitting in the theatre or sitting on our couch,” Miller said. “I think it provides us the opportunity that Scrooge gets, and that is respite from the hustle and bustle of the world around us.”

The showings will occur Dec. 4-13. On Dec. 4, 5, 11 and 12, the show will occur at 6 p.m. On Dec. 5, 6 and 13, the show will occur at 2 p.m. Tickets for the 6 p.m. performances are free for U of I students, and will cost $10 per person and $20 for families. The 2 p.m. performances are “pay what you can.”