Terrified by what he has seen, Ebby, played by Tony St. Denis at a production in 2014, promises to change his ways and keep Christmas in his heart every day. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS DOUGHERTY

Classic Dickens tale gets radio adaptation, Downeast style 

MOUNT DESERT ISLAND Cast members of the radio show version of “A Downeast Christmas Carol” were preparing to record scenes for the audio-only production last week without a set date to air the performance. 

“We don’t have a premiere date,” said co-producer Matt Cornish. “We want to get the recordings in the can. At the very least, we’ll be able to share it via YouTube as an audio show.” 

Official radio airtime or not, the adapted version of Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” will go on as one of the few performances by Acadia Community Theater in 2020. Theaters and acting companies throughout the region and around the world have been adversely affected by the pandemic and have had to think of new, creative ways to bring their craft to the public.  

“There are lots of theaters who have started going virtual with their thing,” said Cornish, adding that his co-producer Matt Hochman consulted with American Community Theater to figure out best approaches for audio shows.  

It turns out good microphones are key to creating a strong production and for some that is as close as their phone. For others in the production that will mean passing around sanitized microphones until all of the parts are recorded. 

“We’ll just record in chunks,” Cornish explained in a virtual interview with the Islander. “We’re going to record scenes with everyone and then take those scenes and piece them together. There’ll be music. There’ll be sound effects and all kinds of fun stuff like that.” 

It isn’t the first time “A Downeast Christmas Carol” has been performed by ACT, but there is no physical, central stage for this show. Instead, the voices of Ebby (Scrooge), Cratchy (Bob Cratchet) and the cast of 30 other characters adapted for the Downeast version of Dickens’s tale will be meeting the audience in the comfort of their own homes or vehicles. Brent Hutchins, who played a fisherman in the first performance, will be bringing Ebby to life, while George Deans narrates the production, Catie Forthofer plays Mary and Tony St. Denis plays Cratchy, to name a few. Most of the actors are playing several characters in the show.  

It was six years ago when one of ACT’s integral players, Mark Puglisi, gave the Dickens classic a more local feel and it was performed for the 2014 holiday season show. When Cornish, Hochman and a few other ACT members were itching to get back into performing and an audio presentation seemed likely for the most successful scenario, they approached Puglisi to further tweak the production.  

“I’ve always wanted to write something for radio,” said Puglisi in a conversation with the Islander. “One thing I was worried about was having people sound right. I know we have a couple of people that really are the real deal.” 

Co-producers Cornish and Hochman understand Puglisi’s concern and feel the show strikes a good balance. 

“Some people have a really good Downeast accent and some people aren’t even trying,” said Cornish, noting there is no need to force something that isn’t natural.  

To prepare, cast members have been rehearsing for the show via Zoom, which presents its own challenges.  

“You can’t sing on Zoom, it doesn’t work well,” said Cornish who is producing his first show for ACT and the different format is keeping him and Hochman on their toes. “Navigating those technological challenges is the one of the biggest (challenges).”  

Because the audio can sometimes be delayed with Zoom, the group incorporated the live streaming software called StreamYard, used by performance groups, so they can successfully sing together and be on cue in real time. 

“It has just been such a pleasure to gather together and act together,” said Cornish about the rehearsals. “The more we tell the story, it’s just so wonderful and fun.”  

There have also been some great discoveries and developments with the different format of the show. For one rehearsal, actors were asked to turn off their videos and tune into each other.  

“There’s a whole different level of listening you do when you’re relying solely on listening,” said Cornish. “Listening and responding becomes the primary job of the actor… The way you deliver a line is different when you are genuinely responding not just delivering your line. I think it becomes transferable in life. Listening is something we all struggle with.” 

To find out when the radio show of “A Downeast Christmas Carol” will hit the airwaves, check the Acadia Community Theater Facebook page.  

“Maybe it will drop on Christmas day and be just the thing to sit around with your family and some eggnog to listen to ‘A Downeast Christmas Carol,’” said Cornish.  

Sarah Hinckley

Sarah Hinckley

Former Islander reporter Sarah Hinckley covered the towns of Southwest Harbor, Tremont and neighboring islands.

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