Last year, the pandemic forced Ford’s Theatre to do a radio play of “A Christmas Carol.”
This year, the annual tradition returns to live, in-person productions now through Dec. 27.
“Obviously we couldn’t do it last year because of the lockdown, so we did a radio version of the play, which was hugely successful,” actor Craig Wallace told WTOP. “We thought, ‘What if we took the radio play and put that on stage?’ Our director José Carrasquillo … reimagined the play. It’s scaled down … but it’s still the essence of the play.”
It’s the fifth time that Wallace has played Ebenezer Scrooge at Ford’s.
“Every year I learn more about the play and the character,” Wallace said. “I get to deepen him every time I do it. We’re doing a reimagined version this year, so it’s kind of the same, and yet it’s very different. So that’s also been a blessing because we’ve actually gotten deeper into who Scrooge is and his journey through time on that fateful Christmas Eve.”
Adapted by Michael Wilson, the show follows Charles Dickens’ classic ghost story.
“Scrooge is a cold, unfeeling man,” Wallace said. “He had great love in his life and lost it. Because of that, he doesn’t want to feel. That makes him compassionless and sometimes even mean. He’s visited by his old business partner in the form of a ghost, Jacob Marley, who explains that if he doesn’t change his life on earth, he’ll have a horrible afterlife.”
Along the way, Scrooge is visited by three ghosts: Past, Present and Future.
“Marley arranges for Scrooge to travel through time: past, present and future with three other ghosts,” Wallace said. “Through that traveling, Scrooge makes some realizations and he is transformed. … Christmas morning is a brand new day for him. … His transformation is learning what generosity and compassion is — and he gives it freely on Christmas Day.”
He enjoys charting the evolution of Scrooge from miser to giver.
“It’s really a beautiful journey,” Wallace said. “As an actor, I start locked, then by the end I’m completely open. To travel that trajectory is so great. The way the play is laid out … Scrooge has to face memories that he’s put away: Belle, the love of his life; Fan, the sister he adored. … When he’s confronted with those images, that’s where the melting happens.”
As always, the cast will accept charitable donations at the end of the show.
“The charity is Theatre Washington’s Taking Care Fund,” Wallace said. “When the pandemic hit, it became so important. They provide emergency grants for theater artists in our area. So far they’ve given out I believe over $700,000 in emergency grants to artists and administrators that live and work in D.C., Maryland and Virginia.”
Thanks to such efforts, Wallace is thrilled to be back doing live theater.
“I’m elated,” Wallace said. “Every theater artist remembers March 13,  when everything shut down. … Not being able to perform was devastating. … Not only could we not perform, we couldn’t even be together. … People are trusting us to come out. So far, so good. The response has been amazing and the crowds have been really great.”