May 29, 2024

Return of the Scrooge Penobscot Theatre tradition anticipates Christmases yet to come

BREWER – Scrooge is back.

After a two-year absence from the shores of the Penobscot River, actor Ken Stack is returning to the stage tonight to portray the man who must learn the hard way to “keep Christmas well.”

A generation of children in Greater Bangor grew up seeing Stack play Scrooge at Penobscot Theatre until the actor took a break from the role in 2006. Stack will bring Ebenezer Scrooge to life for his 27th season, and for the first time his performance will be broadcast live over the airwaves.

The radio version of “A Christmas Carol” will be performed at 8 p.m. today at Brewer Middle School, 5 Somerset St., before a live audience and be broadcast over WHSN-FM 89.3, the radio station at Husson University. Students from the New England School of Communication, located on the Bangor college’s campus, will participate in the show and handle the technical aspects.

The one-hour program will be videotaped for broadcast at later dates over the local-access cable channel that televises Bangor City Council meetings and it will be rebroadcast over the NESCom station. Plans include making a podcast available for download later this month from the school’s Web site.

The collaboration was the brainchild of Rich Kimball, an administrator in the Brewer School Department, veteran sports broadcaster and occasional actor. He also oversees the drama program in the Brewer schools and has written and directed radio dramas with middle school students for several years. Unlike Dickens’ familiar story, those were not actually broadcast.

“I approached Ken this summer about doing ‘Christmas Carol’ as a radio play,” Kimball, 50, of Bangor said Monday night during a rehearsal break. “Since he’s teaching at NESCom now, it seemed like a perfect fit.”

Stack, 57, of Ellsworth teaches speech at Husson and entertainment production at NESCom. He also performs at Acadia Repertory Company in Somesville during the summer.

“We’re still adapting the script,” he said Monday. “The more we hear it, the more we fine-tune it. It’s hard to cut down because every word is golden.”

In writing the script, Stack had to include the sound effects that will be created live by two of his students.

“I’ve done it enough times onstage where sound effects were used that it was just a matter of closing my eyes and listening for them to know what to put in the script,” he said.

Three NESCom students will create the sound and music to accompany the words of 10 performers, including Stack and Kimball. Jake Cyr, 21, of Old Town will play Christmas carols sung by the cast and use a xylophone to create the clock chimes and the sounds that signify Scrooge’s travel with the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.

Kenneth Prosser, 27, who grew up in Brewer, and Benjamin Okey, 31, a Wiscasset native, will use a variety of items to create the sounds that accompany the sights Scrooge sees on his journey through time. Neither has done live sound effects before.

They will use old shoes in a shallow wooden box filled with corn flakes for footsteps walking in snow. Crumbling aluminum foil and tissue paper at the same time will create a crackling fire. Five different sizes of hand bells will be rung to make the sound of church bells.

A tiny door, less than 2 feet tall and about 18 inches wide with slide locks attached to the frame, will get a real workout. Okey will open and close it more than a dozen times during the broadcast. Some of the sounds, such as coins being tossed into a tin cup, the striking of a match, and the plucking of violin strings, will be made by the real things.

“I’ve always loved radio drama,” Okey, who is majoring in Web page design, said at rehearsal, “but this is the first time I’ve ever done one. It’s a lost art form.”

Perhaps not. If “A Christmas Carol” is successful, the collaboration of the River City Radio players, Husson and NESCom could signal the revival of radio dramas for the Bangor area. Stay tuned.


If you go

What: “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens; adapted by Ken Stack

Who: River City Radio Players

When: 8 p.m. today (Wednesday, Dec. 3)

Where: Brewer Middle School, 5 Somerset St.

Cost: $10

On the air: 89.3-FM, WHSN

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