Today’s guest blogger is Paul Hopper. He has played MANY roles in A Christmas Carol over the years, but is currently playing The Spirit of Christmas Present. In his blog he shares a lot about becoming ‘Christmas Present’… feeling his joy… learning about what ‘family’ means… and sharing a dire warning for the future.
Many people have asked me over the years “What’s it like to be Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol?” “Are you indeed a ghost?” “How do you prepare for such a role?” “Who is he to Scrooge?” And “What does it all mean?!!!”. My answer to those people who have approached me either before or after a show or on the street or at a restaurant or in a grocery store was always, “I have no earthly idea”. This was because the answer would be so long winded that it would erode the magic that is A Christmas Carol and cause them to have a fit of yawning, or faint in their soup, or in the worst case, convulsions. I shall attempt, at this time, to answer some of these queries with the fervent hope that your eyes, dear reader, do not begin to droop.
Oh, I do understand, my friend. Whenever an actor talks about his craft it is only marginally exciting to another actor. And in my 37 years in this profession, whenever I have discussed a particular nuance of a character or a scene, I have been known to leave even my fellow thespians asleep or to have them run screaming from the room. So with your indulgence and in the hope you have an adequate supply of No-Doz, here goes.
Simply stated, Christmas Present is the embodiment of the joy that is Christmas. (Well, that was concise and to the point. Do you feel the wind building?) The love, the hope, the good will toward your fellow man, and the charity you feel and wish for all people is encased in this character. About this point, if they’re still conscious, people ask “Why does he laugh so much?” The love that he feels for everyone, including Scrooge, is so all encompassing; there is no other expression that can convey it. There is no other release for that joy. Other Actors have asked me, “How can you laugh that full and that long? Whenever I try it on-stage my diaphragm hurts for a week!” My immediate response is “I have no earthly idea.” What I’m thinking is “That’s because you’re forcing it and not feeling it.” When you let it fill you, there is no pain. There is no technique. There is only love, only joy. It is my dearest wish for all people to know that joy, that charity, that love just once in their existence because it can be life altering.
Present shows Scrooge the effect that this all encompassing love has on those in his life, the people of London, Crachit, and his nephew Fred, and how those closest to him harbor no ill will toward him and indeed are grateful to have him in there lives. Even though he is a sour old curmudgeon, they both offer up a toast to him. He is a part of them. All he has to do is open his heart enough for them to be a part of him. Family.
When Present’s time is nearly gone, he leaves Scrooge with a dire warning, the image of the two children Want and Ignorance. Want represents for me the understanding that there are untold millions in this world a lot less fortunate than I am. I believe that if I woke up this morning with change in my pocket, I am richer than 80% of the world’s population. Ignorance, for me, is not an expression of a College education or a Masters Degree. It is intolerance. If you have neither idea nor any desire to understand what another person is going through, what their life is like, you become closed off, self centered, selfish, intolerant, and inevitably angry. Ignorance is the trait to beware most of all. It will lead to doom.
In my humble estimation, when I learn of all the goings on in our present world, I feel that Want and Ignorance are no longer little children but are currently teenagers. God help us if they should ever reach adulthood.
Is Christmas Present a ghost? No. I think of him more as a spirit. I believe he is more in the vein that Dickens actually phrased him. The Spirit of Christmas Present, in every sense of the word.
“Why does he look so much like Santa Clause?” Again, Dickens. What better image to use to express the joy that is Christmas than the image of Old Saint Nick. He’s such a Dickens.