Sunday, January 11, 2009


The character of Bob Cratchit is one of the most famous characters that Charles Dickens ever created. It probably seems impossible to imagine any version of "A Christmas Carol" without Bob.

However many literary scholars and Dickens experts have difficulty with Bob. He seems too much of a cliche; he does not come across as a real, complexed character. Bob seems to be more of a "story device"--more of a symbol for poor people everywhere than a real person in and of himself. In writing his story, Dickens was trying to make a social statement about poverty and the English class system that offered little hope to help the poor.

"A Southern Christmas Carol" tranfers Dickens' original story to the American South during the Great Depression. At that point in American history most Americans were struggling financially. But the one segment of the population who were the most impovershed were African Americans. The Jim Crow laws of the Southern states were designed to keep black Americans in poor, politically powerless and in low-income jobs. "A Southern Christmas Carol" takes the bold step of turning Bob Cratchit--a poor English white man--into a single black woman trying to support herself and a polio-crippled son.

Peter Lewis as Old Man Scrooge and Allison Upshaw as Eppie

in the 2003 production of "A Southern Christmas Carol."

Eppie is Old Man Scrooge's housekeeper. She is always present in his every day life, and yet he knows virtually nothing about her. Such was the reality of black and white Americans under Jim Crow laws in the South.

Again looking to popular actors of the 1930s, the character of Eppie was inspired by the lengendary actress Ethel Waters (pictured above in 1939.) One of the first great African American stars in Broadway history, Ethel Waters was a gifted comedian, a powerful singer and grew into one of the great dramatic actresses of the first half of the 20th century. In the 1940's she starred in the classic MGM film musical "Cabin In the Sky." In the 1950's she starred on Broadway in the classic Southern drama "Member of the Wedding."

The talented Atlanta-based actress and singer, Allison Upshaw (pictured above and below) created the role of Eppie in the original productions of "A Southern Christmas Carol."

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