An upcoming play will have some familiar themes, but “Jamz’ Christmas Carol” is “not your grandma’s ‘Christmas Carol,'” reads the synopsis of this urban take on Charles Dickens’ classic.
Columbus Middle School drama instructor Chelsea Petty wrote and directs the Columbus Community Theatre Youth production to be presented Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 17-19 at the Rosenzweig Arts Center Omnova Theater in Columbus. Shows are at 7 p.m. nightly, with an additional 2 p.m. matinee Dec. 19. Tickets are $5 at the arts center at 501 Main St., or get them at columbus-arts.org or at the door.
The all-youth production tells the story of Jamz, a famous hip-hop artist who made it out of his old neighborhood and refuses to look back. Wealth and celebrity have gone to his head. After he refuses to perform a charity concert for kids at a local youth center, Jamz is visited by three spirits — a suave, stylish ghost of the past, a hip and happy ghost of the present, and an eerily silent ghost of the future.
Petty got the play idea in 2010, while she was teaching in Okolona. She had put on several school plays, but students “always complained that the characters didn’t talk like them or act like them,” the teacher said.
She had also recently seen a production of “A Christmas Carol” at Tupelo High School and soon began thinking about creating a script some students might find more “relatable.” Scrooge became a rapper, and instead of having a nephew, he had a cousin who’s a preacher. The Cratchit family became a single mom and Tiny Tim, a deaf boy who idolizes Jamz.
“I started writing a play about a rich rapper who forgot where he came from and refused to help anyone else,” said the author.
That script became the first of three of Petty’s works to be published by Pioneer Drama Service. It has since been performed in several states and in four different countries.
A cast of 21 young people, ages 10 to 17, will tell the story, which lasts about one hour. They represent multiple city and county schools and home-schools.
Zachariah Harden plays the kindly preacher.
“I actually like being a lead character because I consider myself a leader,” the 12-year-old Columbus Middle School student said. “He’s a confident man. He likes to stand up for himself, and Jamz is getting on his nerves.”
In Petty’s play, the ghost of Christmas present is “all over the place,” said Isadora Poros, who portrays the lively spirit. “She’s hyper, like a kid who comes into their mom’s bedroom trying to get her to get up.”
Being on stage is fun for Poros.
“Getting to entertain people, see the smiles on their faces and just be a new person — it’s really cool,” she said.
The setting and characters may differ from Dickens’ original, but many of the messages of this seasonal tale are universal. They prove that anyone can learn the true meaning of giving and forgiveness at Christmas.
For more information or tickets, contact the Columbus Arts Council, 662-328-2787, Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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