Gerald Dickens Continues His Great-Great Grandfather’s Legacy – Long Island Weekly

On Dec. 2, Gerald Dickens stopped at the Cinema Art Centre in Huntington on his tour performing one-man shows of his great-great grandfather’s classic book, A Christmas Carol.
Dickens is an actor, director, producer and great-great grandson of Charles Dickens, an English novelist. He first began performing one-man shows of A Christmas Carol in 1993, inspired by Charles Dickens’ energetic readings of the 1860s.
“I’ve always been involved in theater, I loved theater since the age of 9,” Dickens said, when asked what led him to begin doing the one-man shows. “It’s always where I’ve been my happiest and it was always going to be what I did as a career. But in 1993, it was the 150th anniversary of the publication of A Christmas Carol and there was a lot of publicity being written about it and lots of things being done to commemorate the fact. And I was approached by a lady who was raising money for a local charity, and she wanted to do a Christmas, big ticket fundraiser event… She came to me and said ‘look, Charles Dickens went onto performing readings of A Christmas Carol, and they were dramatic, exciting readings. You’re an actor. A Christmas Carol is 150 years old. Why don’t you tie all that up and recreate one of the readings that Dickens gave of A Christmas Carol for charity?’”
Dickens said he had never done any readings or one-man performances before, but since it was for a charity, he agreed to do a reading.
At first, Dickens read A Christmas Carol as if he received a script, developing each character with their own voice and gestures.
“It was a really great success and I enjoyed doing it from a theatrical point of view,” Dickens said. “The following season, in 1994, I decided to do it again in a few more venues and it just built from there. In those early days it was a reading. But after a few years, I got to the point where I discovered having done it so often, I actually knew it word for word by heart.”
Dickens found he had the entire script memorized while touring in America. He had given an afternoon performance in Tennessee and had to travel to an evening performance in Alabama. When he got to the stage, Dickens realized he left the book in Tennessee. So, Dickens took a leap and faith and decided to recite it from memory.
“So it started to become a one-man show as opposed to a reading, Dickens said. “It began to spread out a bit more and have a bit more movement and space and furniture.”
Today, Dickens uses a hat stand, a chair, a wooden stool and a table for his performance.
“And that’s all I need,” Dickens said.
Dickens said he was surrounded by reference books, textbooks and pictures growing up because his father was a Charles Dickens fan and scholar.
“But he was very good at not forcing it on any of us,” Dickens said. “I was the youngest of four children. He didn’t insist that we became part of this Dickens world. His advice to us was to ‘do what you love. Do what you’re passion is. But just do it to the best of your ability.’ And then he’d say, with this little smile, ‘however, Dickens will get you in the end, you know.’ He was absolutely right.”
Dickens said he truly came to appreciate just how much of an impact Charles Dickens had in 1970, 100 years after his death, at a service of commemoration in Westminster Abbey, where his grave is.
“I was sat in a pew, and suddenly realized the Queen’s mother was sitting in the same pew,” Dickens said. “I was a six-year-old and I only saw her on television at big, royal events.”
Dickens was also moved by just how much of an impact Charles Dickens had across the pond.
“They want to share their experience and [the first time they heard A Christmas Carol read],” Dickens said. “They’ll bring a very special, treasured version of the book that maybe their grandparents used to read or something like that. And, that was really when I appreciated how huge Charles Dickens was when I began traveling in the mid-90s, especially coming over to America for the first time. I had no idea the celebrity status he had.”

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