BROADWAY — Veteran Schultz Theatre performer Richard Clem is doing what few actors dare to attempt.
Clem will perform “A Christmas Carol,” the classic Charles Dickens tale, as a one-man stage performance on Saturday and Sunday, as well as Dec. 15 and 16, at J. Frank Hillyard Middle School.
“I knew that if anyone can pull this off, it’s Richard Clem,” said Ron Smith, vice president of the Schultz. “I know Richard’s talent. I know Richard’s work ethic. I know his insanity, and a mixture of all this means it’ll happen and it will work well.”
Since Schultz Theatre moved to J. Frank Hillyard in Broadway from New Market in 2016, it hasn’t been able to use the stage during the holidays. Clem said the one-man production is a way for the Schultz to have a Christmas show in December.
“This is the time of year we usually do Christmas shows, and we don’t have that opportunity because we’re in the school so the kids are going to have priority in using the stage. So, we would have to do Christmas shows in early November, and that to me just didn’t work,” he said.
Actor Patrick Stewart performed “A Christmas Carol” as a one-man show in 1987 that received critical acclaim. Stewart performed 30 characters in a three-hour show.
Clem, 63, who lives in Edinburg, will perform Greg Oliver Bodine’s one-man adaptation of Dickens’ 1843 novella that compresses the story to one hour. The actor will portray 12 characters of various ages and British dialects. He will stand in front of the curtain, and his only props are two chairs, a black tall hat and a cane.
“You always try to challenge yourself in anything you try, to push yourself as far as you want to take it,” Clem said. “I got to a point where I said, ‘This is the next challenge I wanted to try.’”
“A Christmas Carol” tells the timeless redemption story of the cold-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge following the death of his former business partner, Jacob Marley.
Scrooge is visited by three spirits — Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come — who take him on a journey that transforms him into a kinder human being.
One of the challenges of a one-man show, Clem said, is ensuring there are distinctions between all the characters, especially when characters are in dialogue with each other.
“That’s the biggest challenge in itself, basically making the characters come to life without bleeding over into each other,” he said. “It’s so much easier — I’m finding out going through this — to work off of other characters from other actors because then it’s natural; it’s having that dialogue with someone else that we normally do. This, you have to create them yourself.”
Right from the start, as the narrator, Clem speaks directly to the audience. This creates a more intimate experience for the viewers.
“By doing that, you’re bringing them into the show right from the beginning, and it makes it that much more intimate, because now they feel like they’re apart of it,” he said. “That was something imperative with the season. One of the things we like to do during the Christmas season is share the intimates with family, and this is one way the theater can bring that to the audience.”
Smith is confident Clem has the ability to pull off such a challenging show.
“It stretches an actor, which is always a good thing,” Smith said. “I have no doubt that this is going to be a wonderful show, and not many people can pull this off and do it well. Richard Clem can do that.”
Showtimes for the opening weekend are Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Additional performance are Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 16 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for students and seniors. For more information, visit www.schultztheatre.com or call 540-405-2481.