As plans solidified to bring repertory actor Carl Whidden ’75 to campus Dec. 6 to perform his one-actor version of Charles Dickens’s beloved classic, “A Christmas Carol,” 40-year-old memories began to surface and circulate among Oswego alumni and the ARTSwego staff. People remembered a cast of 158, including 130 local children, who had staged an original version of the story in 1973, when Whidden starred in the exacting role of Ebenezer Scrooge.
“Almost daily, we were finding connections with alumni and local residents who were involved in that memorable production,” John Shaffer, director of arts programming for ARTSwego, says. “Legendary Professor Rosemary Nesbitt wrote and directed. It was a presentation of the Children’s Theatre of Oswego and Blackfriars, and it had a lasting impact.”
Whidden’s two-act adaptation calls for him to portray 32 discrete characters, each of which has a unique personality and different accent. “I’ve had to do a lot of homework. It’s challenging to switch characters quickly, get the accents accurate, and always—above all—be faithful to Dickens in my portrayal.
There is one particular character that Whidden finds challenging to portray, but he refuses to name it. If I disclose it, then I’ll be self-conscious when I am in front of an audience,” he explains. Rather, the veteran of stage, television and screen says, “I value the great privilege of working in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ where every character is a delight to know.”
Returning to Oswego, Whidden will refresh his memories of what he calls “Rosemary’s most wonderful adaptation and execution;” he will conduct master classes in the theatre department, and he will connect with long-time friends, like Professor Mark Cole ’73, with whom he has maintained a 42-year friendship.
This national tour, with an Oswego performance brings Whidden full circle and puts him once again in touch with a story he loves. “Imagine my excitement every time I perform. Every character in this story remains vital in our imaginations. The story, and the personalities are timeless, and it makes me feel ageless. After all, I’m 60, and I get to play Tiny Tim.”