[Ed. note: As many of our regular readers know, Dr. Gary Colledge is the author of God and Charles Dickens and consultant on the new play To Begin With. He has also been a good friend to this blog. We greatly appreciate his writing this guest post for us on the development and premiere of the play. --GRD]
Three years ago, my wife and I sat with producer Dennis Babcock in my home discussing the idea of turning Dickens’s The Life Of Our Lord into a one-man play. Dennis shared with us that he had been toying with the possibility of this project for almost 20 years, and through a series of rather extraordinary—maybe even providential?—events, learned that The Life of Our Lord had been at the center of my post-graduate studies. He contacted me for the first time initially by phone, visited me at my home shortly thereafter, and at that meeting asked if I might consider serving as a consultant for the production.
That is why, this past Friday evening, February 20, 2015, I sat with much delight and anticipation in the Music Box Theatre in Minneapolis waiting for the curtain to rise on the premiere of To Begin With, Dennis’s theatrical production about the writing of Dickens’s The Life of Our Lord.
To Begin With -- the play that, as its star Gerald Dickens says, "presents a Dickens that people have not seen before" -- has its preview performance tonight and its premiere tomorrow night at the Music Box Theatre in Minneapolis. Go here and here to read interviews with Gerald, playwright and director Jeffrey Hatcher, and producer Dennis Babcock.
We here at Dickensblog would like to wish them all a very successful opening night!
This interview with Mark Charles Dickens (which I believe originally ran in National Geographic) discusses not only his famous great-great-grandfather, but also what other members of the family -- and a few fake members! -- are up to these days.
Last year I mentioned that a play about the writing of The Life of Our Lord was in development. The other day, Gary Colledge, who's serving as consultant, wrote to give me an update on the project.
The title of the play is To Begin With. It's being written by Jeffrey Hatcher and produced by Dennis Babcock. And Gerald Dickens, who has spent so much time portraying his ancestor in one-man shows and who participated in several staged readings of this play in London, will star in the U.S. production. They hope to open in Minneapolis, "perhaps as early as February 2015."
Below is a short synopsis from a draft of a brochure that Gary sent:
Forty years ago, Monica Dickens, great-granddaughter of Charles Dickens, founded the first U.S. branch of the Samaritans, an organization that provides emotional support to those in distress. Monica's daughter Prudence Stratton attended their "Breakfast for Hope" benefit that marked the anniversary.
In an Independent article about four descendants of famous Britons, 21-year-old drama student Ollie Dickens is one of those featured. He gives a delightful interview about what it was like to discover the significance of his heritage ("it hadn't been blown out of proportion, he really did know how to write"); his love for A Christmas Carol; and how he likes to think that he (like his relatives Harry Lloyd and Gerald Dickens) inherited some of his ancestor's acting genes.