Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol opens on a "cold, bleak, biting" Christmas Eve.
It's seven years after the death of Jacob Marley, the business partner of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge and Tiny Tim may get the best lines, but it's the ghosts who really move the plot along.
Two of the actors who play ghosts in the Kansas City Repertory Theatre’s production are Jim Gall, The Ghost of Christmas Present; and Mark Robbins, The Ghost of Jacob Marley, the first to visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve.
On Marley's chains: "The very first time I started playing Marley, years and years, and years ago," Mark Robbins said. "I thought, what would make my job as Marley easier, is if I didn't have to pretend to be hauling around a bunch of chains. If they were plastic chains, a lot of energy would be going into trying to imbue these fake chains with weight. And I think the chains are very important, because they are a wonderful, huge metaphor for the consequences of living poorly."
On living in the moment as The Ghost of Christmas Present: "The Ghost of Christmas Present is my favorite," Jim Gall said. "I've been drawn to that since as a child that was my favorite character in the movies. Then I came to UMKC, and I got to see the live performances, I would sneak in as an undergrad scores of times and that was, again, my favorite character. Marley is, unfortunately, damned to live a life hauling around his regrets. I live in the moment. The present. And it has a couple of meanings. It's a gift to Scrooge to show him the life, Christmas present, but I am Christmas right here and now."
"He embodies the joy of the season," said Gall. "Experiencing life to its fullest. Stop and smell the roses. Appreciate those around you. Enjoy food, enjoy beverage, enjoy friendship, enjoy love. To get outside of yourself and experience life to its fullest. That is what he is trying to get old Scrooge to do and it works."
On why A Christmas Carol still resonates: "It's a wonderful, wonderful story," Robbins said. "It's a one-of-a-kind. It's a jewel of a story that happens to use as its frame the season of Christmas which was very important to Dickens and is very important to all of us, no matter what faith we are."
On the message of the story: "Treat the least of those among us well," Robbins said. "Take care of your poor people. Take care of your sick. Take care of those who are in need, and get out of yourself. Let your spirit wander forth. Go out. Do something for someone else. Let your spirit impact another person in a positive way."
The Kansas City Repertory Theatre presents A Christmas Carol through December 26, 2012, at the Spencer Theatre, on the UMKC campus, 4949 Cherry Street, Kansas City, Mo. 816-235-2700.