Actors Theatre Welcomes a New Scrooge

John G. Preston Takes the Reins in this Year’s “A Christmas Carol”
By Remy Sisk

Stepping into Charles Dickens’ timeless tale of understanding the meaning of Christmas is nothing new for John G. Preston. The actor is currently starring in Actors Theatre’s production of “A Christmas Carol” as Scrooge, an opportunity that is the culmination of several years of hard work on versions of the show across multiple cities. In Louisville, he played the Narrator in the show in 2014 and 2015, but his history with the show begins long before then.

“I cut my teeth on it as a young man playing small roles and then playing Fred for a number of years,” Preston says of his involvement in “A Christmas Carol,” primarily at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival where he was an actor for 15 years. “And then for a number of years, I played variations of narrators, and then I did other productions where I played narrators and that’s how I ended up in this production, eventually playing Scrooge. So I’ve basically grown up doing some version of this play since I was about 20.”

Taking on the role of Scrooge after having been involved in the show for so long has, of course, a touch of intimidation. However, Preston was not only up for the challenge but also exceptionally grateful and excited to be the next in line of a long tradition of extraordinary actors performing this iconic role. “It’s really wonderful because there is this long tradition,” he says. “I’ve watched a lot of men play Scrooge over the years as I’ve played some of the other roles. There’s a wonderful actor named Philip Pleasants who played Scrooge at Alabama Shakes for years and years, and in the tradition of theatre, I’ve pulled little bits from his performance. They’re my own now because I can’t really do what he did, but the tradition of the Scrooges sort of carries on as productions go on and actors phase out of the role and another actor takes over.”

Actors Theatre’s production, which is perhaps one of Louisville’s most revered annual theatre traditions, certainly has several differences from other productions, but Preston maintains that at its heart is the same story that generations across the globe have fallen in love with for years. “You get to see someone transform in this story—you get to see someone go from a curmudgeon and beyond hope to turning around and having hope to live a longer and happier life,” Preston emphasizes. “It’s a beautiful, timeless story that has become a tradition in our country to see and to take your family to.”

As audiences file into and out of the Pamela Brown Auditorium at Actors to see Preston as Scrooge in this year’s iteration, the actor hopes that people are genuinely impacted by the story and are able to refocus on what’s really important during this time of year. “You always hope that people leave the theatre affected by the story and by the transformation of Scrooge into someone who is giving and will help people,” he affirms. “We all want to have that feeling at Christmastime. It’s so hard in our culture to find that even now because it’s so monetarily based, but I think people want to think about that side of Christmas, about giving and giving to people in need.” VT

“A Christmas Carol”

Through December 23

Actors Theatre of Louisville