By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Like many of our family traditions this year, those at the Guthrie Theater have had to change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But instead of cancelling their rendition of “A Christmas Carol” this year, the downtown Minneapolis theater will virtually retell the classic play that it has staged annually for the last 45 years.

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“We just thought: We’re not going to skip a year, we just can’t,” said Joseph Haj, the theater’s artistic director. “We had to find a way to do something.”

Haj didn’t just want to tape an older version of the play. Instead, he opted to make a film of Charles Dickens’ Christmas ghost story.

For the first time since March, when the outbreak began, actors were again in the theater, which was turned into a soundstage. The actors were brought in one at a time to work with a film crew, which was dressed in full protective gear.

The story was divided into four chapters for the film, with each chapter focusing on a single character. The end result is an hour-and-15-minute movie that play-lovers can watch from home.

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This is one way that the Guthrie, which has had to layoff nearly 80% of its staff, can operate during the pandemic.

“Right now, there is no path — financial or otherwise — to doing a socially-distanced model inside,” Haj said.

Reflecting on “A Christmas Carol,” Haj says the story of the Ebenezer Scrooge is as important now as it’s ever been.

“This story reminds us that we are not just responsible for ourselves, but that we’re also responsible for our neighbors.”

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Tickets for the Dickens’ Holiday Classic cost $10 per family, and they’ll be available starting Friday. They can be purchased here. The program is free for schools.

Heather Brown