Stephen Thorne has been a member of the Trinity Repertory Company for nearly 20 years, but this may be his most important role yet: He has been cast as Scrooge in this year’s production of A Christmas Carol, which comes with an enormous weight. For 41 years, audiences have gathered at Trinity Rep to witness Charles Dickens’ classic ghost story come to life. Having co-directed the production last year with his wife, Angela Brazil, and appearing in the show numerous times as a cast member, Thorne is more than ready to take on the beloved role.
How do you think this year’s production is different or stands apart from other seasons?
I think the truly amazing thing about our Christmas Carol is that it does change from year to year. [We’re] telling a story that everyone is familiar with, and saying, “Okay, let’s start at the beginning, and treat this as if we’re doing it for the first time.” With all of the institutional knowledge and experience that we have with it, let’s put all of that in a room and make something brand new. There are a lot of people in the audience who come year after year, and there are some who are coming for the very first time, so either way, we’re trying to create that experience anew for them. We’re asking ourselves that question every day: “How do we make this fresh?”
How is your version of Scrooge going to be different?
A different actor is going to bring their own version of the character. It’s like Hamlet or any other big role like that; the actor is allowed to put their own stamp on it. It’s not just personality, it’s everything: how I move, how I look, how I sound. He’s a man who’s shut himself off from pretty much most of the world, and, in my mind, perhaps because I’m the one playing him this year, he’s firmly in middle age. In Dickens’ time, that would’ve been pretty far along. But I relate to that very strongly, your youth is not only gone, but long gone, and I think he can look down the road and say to himself, “This is probably what I’m going to do for the rest of my life. Work, eat, sleep. Work, eat, sleep. Don’t make contact, don’t open up, ignore the outside world,” but the beautiful thing about this story is that he realizes that it’s not too late.
What is the modern relevance of A Christmas Carol?
I think something important and central to Dickens’ story to bring out is that Scrooge doesn’t see anyone. It’s like he’s walking around with blinders on. A big part of what he has to go through is that he has to open his eyes. He has to see what’s around him. That resonates with me at this particular moment, not just this year, but in this current political climate where people are fighting to be seen and acknowledged, and to me, Scrooge represents that part of us that says, “Well, I’m just taking care of my own stuff and I’m not responsible for anybody else.” We are responsible for each other. It takes effort and it takes a choice to realize that we’re all responsible for one another, and that message to me, is especially vibrant and important now with this show.
A Christmas Carol runs from November 8 to December 30 at Trinity Rep. Providence