Holiday Interview with Michael Michetti

by Ayla Harrison

I posed a holiday question to Boston Court’s Co-Artistic Director Michael Michetti recently, “What’s your favorite holiday classic?” The man behind such Boston Court favorites as 2011’s The Dinosaur Within had a lot to say about a dear friend I grew up with: George Bailey.

“Year after year It’s A Wonderful Life makes me cry.   I love its message because it says something very profound about the power of the mind to change our experience of our lives.  When George arrives home at the end of the film, his circumstances haven’t really changed.  But through a shift in his way of thinking he has gone from suicidal despair to a place of tremendous gratitude.  And then that shift becomes manifested as his friends and family give back to him both in love and material wealth, reflecting back to George his transformed experience of his wonderful life.”

This notion about Christmas classics got me thinking about other holiday favorites. I’d seen much of Michetti’s fantastic work this season, and I pondered how he’d handle iconic holiday character: Ebenezer Scrooge from A Christmas Carol. So I asked him about his experience with the well-known piece.

“Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has resonated deeply with me for many years. I’ve never directed a production, but it’s haunted me since I was a teenager and began dreaming of how I might stage it as a play.”

I wondered what a man with such a theatrically diverse resume, with such a fantastic directorial range might say about this curmudgeonly old man. And the answer he gave me was so simple I felt like George Bailey holding a Christmas bell—just absolutely warm all over.

“Because A Christmas Carol is so frequently produced, it is almost de rigueur to reset it in some clever setting.  Certainly one could winkingly make Scrooge a banking mogul who has lost sight of how his greed and stinginess have affected those around him, and you’d get some good chuckles.  But I’m afraid that kind of approach actually undermines what I find so powerful in the story.

Like It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol is a story of personal redemption, of a protagonist who has lost his way and who, through a series of supernatural visions has his entire outlook transformed.  I’m afraid by making Scrooge a banker or some other symbol of greed, we present him as the “other.”  We distance ourselves from him because we have already judged his sins, and they’re not our sins.

I cry at the end of A Christmas Carol because I am Ebenezer Scrooge.  I’m not angry at him, and I don’t pity him.  I empathize with him. We’ve all had the experience of having our hearts shut down. We have all tried to justify our anger rather than release it.  We have all been stingy because we fear scarcity.

Dickens has done a pretty miraculous trick.  He has created an intensely dislikable, seemingly unredeemable character whose armor is slowly chipped away, who slowly reveals the source of his wounds and the child-like vulnerability beneath his hardened shell.  And by the end of the story, he is transformed – simply through a shift in his mind – to a lovable, empathetic figure.  And he gives hope to us all – if Ebenezer Scrooge can change so profoundly, maybe I can as well.

These stories endure because they’re little Christmas miracles.  They teach us something about ourselves, and remind us of truths we often forget as we get caught up in the daily grind.  They’re perennials because we need to be reminded.  And I’m thankful for these annual reminders.”

***

And as we wrap gifts and rush to festive gatherings with family and friends this holiday season, as we ready ourselves for another year, as technology quickens and smartphones get even smarter…it’s nice to know that some things were meant to remain untouched.  And sometimes you need a little Tiny Tim to remind you that slowing down isn’t quite so bad.  

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