There’s an old Native American admonition about walking a mile in another man’s moccasins — but every December, Utah actor Dane Allred takes the empathy challenge several steps further by spending an hour in 20 different characters’ voices.
In a decade-long tradition, Allred will be presenting his one-man production of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” This year’s presentation will be Monday at 7 p.m. in the Ballroom at the Provo Library at Academy Square. Attendance is free.
As might be expected, coming up with voices and personalities for so many different characters can be a bit of a bah, humbummer.
“I’ve been in a couple of plays, like ‘Greater Tuna,’ which features 10 roles for each actor,” Allred said in an email interview. “There are about 20 characters in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and developing voices for each was a challenge, but the many kinds of English accents really helps. For example, Mrs. Cratchit seems to work best with a Cockney Eliza Doolittle from ‘My Fair Lady’ accent.”
Speaking of Mrs. Cratchit, Allred said the wife of Bob Cratchit is probably his favorite in the vast cast of characters.
“She isn’t afraid to say what is true about the Scrooge we see at the beginning,” Allred said. “Her comments usually get laughs from the audience. But seeing the change in Scrooge is one of my favorite parts of the show.”
Allred pointed out that his one-man effort is based off the prompt copy used by Dickens whenever he performed the piece in England and the United States. A digitized copy of Dickens’ prompt script is available from the New York Library, from which Allred bases his annual treatment.
“Dickens took a copy of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and marked it up with notes, changes and even pasted pages together with stamps,” Allred said in a press release. “He knew he couldn’t read the whole book, so he adapted it for a one-hour performance. There’s even more personal notes from Dickens in the front of the prompt copy which shows where he performed the piece and how much he was paid.”
Allred debuted his one-man treatment in 2009 at the Provo Tabernacle. The following year, the Tabernacle was gutted by fire on Dec. 17, 2010, just a few days before Allred’s scheduled performances that season. He’s been putting on the show at different locations since then, and started presenting it at the Provo library in 2013.
Allred said immersing himself in the spirit of the play each season really puts him in the right frame of mind for the spirit of Christmas present.
“I think the change of Scrooge from the miser to the sharing and caring person we see at the end is what helps me understand this show,” Allred said. “It has a universal appeal which urges all of us to be kinder to our fellow man, ‘as if they really were fellow travelers,’ as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, comments. The audience also helps me feel better about our future and how we care about each other. There are some people who have been in attendance every year and tell me they make ‘A Christmas Carol’ a part of their Christmas preparation. That makes me feel great.”
There will be audience sing-alongs planned between the four parts, or staves, of the show.
“I think the participation of the audience really makes the performance much more enjoyable for everyone,” Allred said.
Allred teaches public speaking at both BYU and Utah Valley University. He has extensive acting credits, appearing in more than 75 stage productions in nearly every local venue imaginable. He has also been in more than 30 movies, commercials or TV shows, most recently appearing in the Disney comedy-drama series “Andi Mack.”
Allred encourages everyone with an interest to attend Monday’s show, noting that about 500 people attended two years ago, and the ballroom is plenty big to accommodate even larger crowds.
“I expect more in the audience this year,” Allred said, “but the ballroom is huge. It can seat plenty of people, and everyone should remember — this presentation is free!”