Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? -Sathya Sai Baba

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Christmas Carol as Saturn Redeemed

I’m in a play right now – A Very Nosedive Christmas Carol (if you haven’t made plans to see it already, why the fuck not?) – and it is a good time. By that I mean that I am enjoying the play, the process, and the company in equal measure. The play itself is a wonderful adaptation of the original Dickens Carol by Mr. Jimmy Comtois, and the process, while grueling, has been a joy. It’s fun to do a well written, skillfully directed play. The cast is also terrific: pleasant, charming folks all. Having my wife in the cast also insures that I’ll see her more than once a fortnight. So that’s good.

I was interested to note that, in spite of some fairly significant dramas amongst cast members and crew, everyone seems to be keeping in remarkably good spirits. No snarling backstage brawls, no bickering, no moody creatures poisoning the air with their depressive silences. No, everyone seems to be clicking right along, with as little friction as possible.

Why is this?

Why is it that certain shows almost always seem to create friendly relations between the cast members? Why is it that certain shows seem to have almost the opposite effect? As an example, I’ve been in several productions of Godspell, and in every single one, there was a sense of real camaraderie between the cast. Almost as if the subject matter had some sort of gentling effect on the players.

I pondered this for a while in connection with the Christmas Carol, and I realized that what I was seeing was a very similar effect. But first, a little background…

The original holiday season of winter was the Saturnalia. Long before Jesus was even a twinkle in Mary’s eye, the Romans (and others, though they called it by different names) coped with the long cruelty of winter by throwing a massive party and getting wrecked. They exchanged gifts and basically celebrated the fact that winter, though hard and deadly, was finite, and that it would not last. Saturn was the god of Hard Reality, of Duty, of Leaden Depression. Basically Saturn personified everything that winter was about. Saturnalia was a party to redeem Saturn from his gloomy gus persona and remind him that winter ends, spring comes, and all shall be well. The world will not always be privation and despair, cold wind and bitter snow, hard choices and resources that will only extend so far. Generosity has a place, benevolence has a place, joy and a good party all have places, even at the most cruel depth of winter.

Which brings us to the Christmas Carol. A cruel, poverty fearing, dutiful old man is redeemed through reminders of his past and fears of his future. He is reminded that there is more to life than despair, and he joins in the celebration going on all around him. The Christmas Carol invokes the spirit of Saturn in the person of Scrooge, and then invites him to the party. The Christmas Carol is Saturn Redeemed, and this spirit of joy echoes the same party that’s been going on for thousands of years. And we, the players, we feel that spirit of joy in ourselves, and it makes for a benevolent and generous spirit, even when the worst is crashing down on us (and, a couple of times, it seemed like the worst was coming for us, with a vengeance).

So, God Bless us, everyone.

Come and see the show, by the way. I swear it won’t be as treacle-y and sweet as the stuff I wrote above, but I do guarantee a good time. It’s funny! With masks! And puppets!

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