Shakespeare fest offers trip back to Victorian England

Valley Shakespeare Festival will present its fifth annual script-in-hand dramatic reading of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, “A Christmas Carol” at Shelton’s Plumb Memorial Library, 65 Wooster St., on Friday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 8, at 1 p.m.

The production will be held upstairs in the library’s 1895 Romanesque Revival-style Reading Room, which features a soaring cathedral ceiling, Victorian wing chairs and a massive fireplace.

Performances are being presented to the public free of charge with a suggested donation of $10 per person.

A Christmas Carol, adapted for the event by VSF’s Executive/Artistic Director Tom Simonetti, will be performed with minimal props and costuming and a cast of professional actors, many of whom returning audience members will recognize from previous VSF productions.

Audience members will have an opportunity to speak with the cast and crew over refreshments provided by Plumb Library after both performances.

Charles Dickens wrote his holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” in London in 1843 in the midst of England’s industrial revolution. It was originally written to be published as a pamphlet to inspire social reform.

At the time, London was teeming with problems — in only 80 years its population quadrupled from 1 million to 4.5 million; crime was rampant-the police estimated that 20,000 children were being trained in thievery; the city’s water supply was polluted; housing was sparse and cramped with entire families living in one small room; and education for children was at an all-time low.

It is into this world that Valley Shakespeare Festival will take its audiences. Presented without elaborate period costuming and staging, This production focuses on the true meaning of the story.

“The story is powerful enough on its own not to need all kinds of embellishment,” said Tom Simonetti, the company’s executive and artistic director (and Bob Cratchit). “I love to see the children’s and families’ reactions to Jacob Marley’s chains, Tiny Tim, and Scrooge’s last speech. It’s a story that needs to be told because it reminds us of the kind of people we should be all year long. It’s exactly what we need.”

Audience members will join Ebenezer Scrooge on his transformational journey through his own personal darkness of bitterness and disillusion on that fateful Christmas Eve and emerge with him on that brilliant Christmas morning with renewed faith in God and humanity.

Jeremy Funke, who has portrayed Scrooge in the company’s productions from the beginning, explains why the experience is new for him each year:

“For myself, personally, a sense of not knowing what comes next — I think Scrooge approaches his first Christmas with such a childlike energy precisely because he doesn’t know what comes next, and there’s a genuine excitement that comes along with that.”

For more information, contact Valley Shakespeare Festival at 203-513-9446 or at