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Cleveland Students Reimagine ‘A Christmas Carol’

In 1989, Great Lakes Theatre began presenting Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” which is now a Northeast Ohio holiday tradition. That same year, GLT started another holiday tradition with a challenge to middle school students of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.  

“We’ve asked them to read the book, or at least see some adaptation of it, and then using themes of possibly the plot, create their own story.  It could be a short story, a modern retelling of Dickens’ work, or it could be a completely original work dealing with the themes of transformation, redemption, forgiveness, compassion and empathy, as well as some of the darker areas that Dickens gets into, like want, poverty and ignorance,” said GLT’s Education Outreach Associate David Hansen.

Schools then submit their best entries to GLT’s “A Christmas Carol” Writing Contest.

“They create short stories, song lyrics, rap lyrics, personal essays, we get everything,” Hansen said.

From those submissions, a panel of judges select six grand prize winners. Those students receive several honors, including being recognized at a special matinee performance of the play, as well as having their stories read, this year on a special Facebook Live presentation of The Sound of Applause.



Laura Berg, Lynn Berg, David Hansen, Dan Polletta

Actors Laura and Lynn Berg, both of whom appeared in this year’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” joined Hansen in ideastream’s Key Bank Studio to read the six award-winning works. 

Laura Berg explained why she enjoys appearing in the show each season as well as the chance to read the students’ stories.

“For me, it is such a beautiful melding of classical literature and being on stage. Like a lot of young kids, my introduction to storytelling was through reading.  I was a voracious reader as a child.  Getting to experience stories live and in person on-stage was another huge transition into the art of storytelling.  I started looking at why and how we tell stories and how they continue to resonate. It’s then fun to then be able to read young people exploring their own storytelling.

Lynn Berg, who just finished his third season as Ebenezer Scrooge in the GLT production, has participated in reading the children’s stories on various ideastream platforms a number of times.   This year’s entries made an impression on him.

“They are bold, specific and some of them don’t pull any punches about what they are trying to say. That’s great for kids to recognize that they have a voice, power and authority about what they choose to put out in the world.  I think that is pretty amazing,” he said.



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