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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Playhouse Mystery Series: Go Dickens for Christmas

Christmas and the Theatre go hand in hand.  From Nativity scenes and Christmas Pageants telling the story of Christ's birth to fantastical ballet productions of 'The Nutcracker,' Dickens' quintessential holiday play: The Christmas festive musicals like Holiday Inn...

"Christmas is a magical time of year, the opportunity to design costumes for holiday productions, parties and Church pageants is a joy." - Merritt Andrews, costumer and amateur sleuth. "With Christmas only a few days away I'm in the throes of creating the final touches for my church's Live Nativity Scene.  I'm also in the middle of a production of 'A Christmas Carol.'  Charles Dickens is one of my favorite authors.  'A Christmas Carol,' has been produced countless times, reconfigured with twists from a Hawaiian theme to Diva Christmas...Modern retellings in 'Scrooged' and futuristic 'Scrooge.' I never grow tired of Dickens original version.  Scrooge, Bah Humbug, Redemption and reflection on past, present and future is the spirit of Christmas and hope that even the blackest of hearts can find redemption in this season.  Here are some tips for putting together your own costumes for 'A Christmas Carol' themed party or stage play."

Here are a few costume ideas and links to plan a Dickens' Christmas Carol Affair as well as some party ideas...

- Thrift Stores are a treasure trove when pulling together costumes.  Suits, hats, can get creative even spray painting or altering what you find.  Plus the money for Bargain Boxes and Goodwill typically goes to a good cause.
- You might have a local costume shop in your town - where you can rent a costume or purchase one.
- If you like to sew - most of the major companies have period costume patterns.  You can choose the fabric and fit to size. 

Ebenezer Scrooge:
2 costumes: his suit and his nightgown
A penny-pincher even in extreme wealth, you want rundown costumes for Scrooge.  A suit needs to be decent, black, but not ornate. 

- Scrooge's suit:
I recommend going to a thrift shop and searching for an antiquated 'frock coat' that goes behind the knees - black and nothing too fancy.  Find a pair of black wool pants, pair with a 'Victorian' stiff collared shirt (linen) - or a more modern shirt (button down) will work for a party.  Add a vest, nothing too fancy - Scrooge is a penny-pincher after all.  A pair of black loafers works for a basic costume...You'll need a Top Hat and accessorize with a cane and wire costume spectacles.

- Nightgown:
A linen nightgown, (below the knees or all the way down to your feet), with a thin robe (optional), a night cap (white linen) and pair of slippers.

Ghost of Christmas Past:
Get creative on this one.  The ghost is typically represented as a phantom of dazzling white, supernatural qualities.  Use Ben Nye theatre make-up to cake your face white - into a pale ghostly presence, possibly with glitter mixed in.  The costume options are endless...I recommend a white dress, nothing too fancy, but with a ghostly vibe to it...

Ghost of Christmas Present:
This is the ghost of being merry and joyful and seeing the blessings we have in our lives and beckons us to embrace the hope in Christmas.

This Ghost is typically clothed in a robe (green or red) with faux fur lining and a wreath upon his head.  Use your creative imagination to dream up what you envision the Ghost of Christmas Present to be...

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come...
"I fear you more than any spectre I have seen..."
This is a scary figure, who calls us to act on seeking redemption and Christmas spirit before it is too late.  You want this figure to be scary and foreboding.  The face is often cloaked.  A grim reaper outfit typically works great for this 'Ghost.' 

Here are some go-to links I use when creating Dickensian costumes:
Dickens' Fair - Costume Guide - Men's Costume ideas
Women -
Truly Victorian:
Gentleman's Emporium - They have some beautiful traditional costumes - images might spark your own ideas
Brunswick County does a Dickens Fair - Here are their Costume tips:

Looking for the perfect way to go 'Dickens for Christmas?'  You can plan your own reading of 'A Christmas Carol' - even a small production in your home, using music and small stage effects...or simply having guests trade off on dialogue, in the comfort of a crackling fire

Attend a production of 'A Christmas Carol,' most towns have at least one production a year...get in the spirit and dress up when you attend the production!

A Dickens Fair is always a fun way to get into the Holiday Spirit, if your town doesn't have one, why not start a planning committee with friends/family/volunteers.  You can create a magical world of Victorian England in the Church Parish Hall or a museum...Entrants can dress up, listen to traditional Victorian Christmas music and dine like Dickens did in Victorian England...

'You are cordially invited...' Share Dickens' A Christmas Carol with a soiree, have your own 'Fezziwegg's Christmas or New Year's Eve Party,' equipped with scrumptious Victorian delights like Plum Pudding, mince pies, sugar plums, sweet bread, cookies, Wassail and mulled wine... décor and a 'Scrooge' costume theme...

Link to the original text of 'A Christmas Carol.'

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