Barry McNamara  |  Published November 11, 2021

‘A Christmas Carol,’ Nov. 18-21

Charles Dickens’ classic, a joint production between Monmouth College and the Buchanan Center for the Arts, to be staged at Wells Theater.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – A ghost story. A tale of redemption. A work promoting better labor relations. The work that saved Christmas.

'A CHRISTMAS CAROL': During its Nov. 18-21 run at the College's Wells Theater, the Ch... 'A CHRISTMAS CAROL': During its Nov. 18-21 run at the College's Wells Theater, the Charles Dickens holiday classic will be staged five times.Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which will be staged at Monmouth College’s Wells Theater five times over the course of its Nov. 18-21 run, has been called all those things.

It can also be called “a holiday classic,” and guest director Tamy Dixon-Rankin is thrilled for her first opportunity to lead its production, working with what she called a “fantastic” cast.

“I really love the adaptation that was selected, because there are many adaptations out there, some of them better than others,” she said. “This one is particularly good. I think it captures everything that A Christmas Carol has to offer. It has the drama, it has the scariness, and it’s not too saccharine.”

Unlike most performances at Monmouth College, A Christmas Carol also involves members of the community, as it’s a cooperative production between the College and the Buchanan Center for the Arts.

“I find myself at night thinking ‘How in the world did we end up with this much talent and devotion, particularly among the very young in the cast?’” said Dixon-Rankin. “We have kids all the way from 12, and of course Doug (her husband, Monmouth theatre professor Doug Rankin, who plays the role of Marley’s ghost) is 64.”


Did Dickens save Christmas?

Originally a series of what Dixon-Rankin called “staves,” A Christmas Carol made its first appearance as a full-fledged novella in 1843, during a period when she said “Christmas was going through a difficult time.”

“Dickens did get people re-involved in Christmas. He set the standard for what would come after. I think it’s accurate to say that he saved Christmas, or at least he revived Christmas.” Tamy Dixon-Rankin 

“It hadn’t really been observed in what we would consider a traditional way,” she said. “People were sort of moving from the traditional sorts of Christmas – we think of Currier and Ives – they were adopting new traditions. Families were separating by great distances. A lot of the family gatherings had gone out the window. There was some modernization and some secularism creeping into the Christmas celebration.”

Enter A Christmas Carol, which Dixon-Rankin said caused people at the time to reconsider the holiday.

“Dickens set a bar of what Christmas should actually mean to people,” she said. “That would be family gathering – even if you can’t be together, to communicate some way with each other. Christmas cards became a thing. The foods that we associate with Christmas – gooses and turkeys, at least in England – those became a big part of what we consider Christmas dinner, even in the United States now. Dickens did get people re-involved in Christmas. He set the standard for what would come after. I think it’s accurate to say that he saved Christmas, or at least he revived Christmas.”

The author also called attention to how employers should treat their workers.

“You can’t hand out a shilling one day a year and consider that enough,” said Dixon-Rankin. “This is really about people and caring for people and taking care of them all the time. You have to feel it in your heart. Dickens did turn those things around on good old Scrooge.”

“It’s a ghost story about your ghost – what kind of ghost are you leaving behind on the world. In other words, what kind of print are you leaving when you depart?’” Tamy Dixon-Rankin 

Dixon-Rankin called Scrooge “the most interesting character” in the production.

“He’s the classic redemption story,” she said. “Every version of A Christmas Carol hinges on his redemption.”

It also hinges on Marley’s ghost.

“A Christmas Carol is originally and fundamentally a ghost story,” said Dixon-Rankin. “If you read the original Dickens, he describes it as that. The first thing he says is, ‘You have to understand, Marley is dead, or you won’t get anything else I say about this.’ … It’s a ghost story about your ghost – what kind of ghost are you leaving behind on the world. In other words, what kind of print are you leaving when you depart?”

# # #

Monmouth College and the Buchanan Center for the Arts will present “A Christmas Carol” at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18-20 and at 2 p.m. Nov. 20-21 at the Wells Theater on the College’s campus. Tickets can be purchased at or through the Buchanan Center for the Arts. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and $6 for students and faculty with a Monmouth College ID.

Listen Up …

Tamy Rankin previews “A Christmas Carol” on the 1853 Podcast (interview begins at the 7:38 mark).

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