At the stroke of midnight, Ebenezer Scrooge begins getting visits by ghosts -- one from Christmas past, one from Christmas present, and one from Christmas that may or may not come to pass. But in most theatrical versions of Charles Dickens' story, they're not all performed by the same person. In an original adaptation called One Christmas Carol, veteran stage actor Doug Baker single-handedly brings to life each of the ghosts, along with Scrooge, Marley, Fred, Fred's wife, the beggar carolers, and Bob Cratchit and his shabby family -- even Tiny Tim.
"I don't change clothes, costumes or hats or anything. Each new character takes on the attitude -- it just steps in," says Baker. "I would say that it's master storytelling."
Baker worked as a professional actor in Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Florida before becoming a university theater professor and then creating the Tournament of Kings show at the Excalibur Hotel in Las Vegas. The show was wildly successful, and, with Baker playing the wizard Merlin, ended up running for 13 years.
One Christmas Carol
1216 East Apache in Tempe
Plays at the New School for the Arts. Performances are at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, November 29; 2 p.m. Sunday, November 30; 8 p.m. December 5; 2 and 8 p.m. December 6; and 2 p.m. December 7. Canned donations for St. Mary's Food Bank will be accepted at the door. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors and military personnel, and $10 for students. To purchase, visit www.theatrescape.com. For information call 602-405-3681.
"I put One Christmas Carol together as an acting exercise just to keep my chops up. I did 8,800 performances of the tournament," recalls Baker. "You really need something to keep the brain working."
Baker began touring the show to schools and it has traveled to several states, though he has not done a performance of the show in four years. "It's been a really wonderful experience rediscovering it. I let it go for a while," he says.
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Since Baker never leaves the stage and only stops speaking for dramatic pause or inhalation, it's a tad bit grueling. With a running length of an hour and 20 minutes, the piece is "rough," says Baker. "It's a lot of work -- especially for my knees."
During the show, Baker is accompanied by an onstage percussionist who does all of the sound effects live. That function is usually filled by his wife, Kay (as it will be for this production), or one of his four sons.
One Christmas Carol is being presented by brand-new local theater troupe Theatrescape as a benefit for the New School for the Arts and Academics, an arts-focused charter school in Tempe.
Baker wrote parts of and arranged the script, which he said includes only about 15 to 20 percent of his writing. "I don't really remember anymore. I have to go back and check," says Baker. "But the rest is his, because you don't write Dickens. I just wrote the transitions and whatnot." Baker gives away the credit willingly. "The reason it holds their attention, I think, is because the imagery is amazing -- Dickens' work is sublime," he says.