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Willem Lange's History with A Christmas Carol
December 06, 2020
Willem Lange and his Christmas Carol Journey
Artistic Directors Kim Bent and Kathleen Keenan wanted to know more about how Willem got started performing a reading the Christmas Carol every year.
What follows is what Willem wrote in response:
"A professor at the College of Wooster in Ohio, when he’d been a graduate student of Rhetoric and Speech at Harvard, had found in a used bookstore  a copy of the prompter’s script used by Dickens when he performed A Christmas Carol during his 1867-68 trip to America. Naturally, he bought it and, after joining the faculty at Wooster, read it every December to the assembled college audience.
I first heard him in 1953, near the end of his string, when he’d already been emeritus for years, and remember thinking, “Who’s going to take over when he’s gone?”
I thought about it for decades; and finally in 1975, when I was forty and living in Hanover, sat down with my typewriter and an LP recording of Professor Lean’s performance, and typed out the script. That took some patience!
My wife and I invited friends over; I borrowed a set of tails; and we held the first session in our living room. My wife made a huge trifle for the occasion. The next year we had to do it two nights to fit everybody in, so in 1977 we moved it to St. Thomas Church in Hanover, where it’s been every year since.
It’s always been done there as a benefit, with the proceeds going to the Upper Valley Haven, the homeless shelter in White River.
Dickens had the gift of finding the sensitive spot in each of us – rather like scratching a puppy in a particular place and making it wave a hind leg. His own extended family had taxed his generosity till he felt again the dread of debtor’s prison; yet he supported them as best he could. So he knew the conflicted feelings that had turned Ebenezer Scrooge into a miserly, solitary, curmudgeon. Considering the continuing popularity of his beautiful Christmas fable, it’s obvious that we all wrestle with the same dilemma.
I love the moment in the story when Scrooge, emerging from the horror of seeing his plundered corpse in his own bedroom, wakes to the joy of his new-born self, tries tentatively to laugh, and the amused audience laughs along with him. Then, as he throws open his window to a sunny day and calls down to a boy, “What’s today, my fine fellow?” the relief is palpable. “Not the little prize turkey. The big one!”
I do love this story, and hope only for a few more years to share it with my friends on cold, dark winter evenings still to come."