D Kevin McNeirLifestyle

Puerto Rican-Born Yesenia Iglesias Stars in Ford’s ‘A Christmas Carol’

Actress Feels 'At Home' in a Cast Whose Diversity is More Reflective of the World

It’s become one of the staples of theatrical offerings presented during the holiday season here in the District every December — that is, Ford’s Theatre’s take on the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.”

Once again as audiences have grown to adore and expect, the incomparable local Black actor Craig Wallace returns in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge — a part that he’s long made his own — race notwithstanding. And as fans have grown to expect, the cast still retains its rare if not unique propensity for breaking traditionally-held norms for the cast’s ethnicity including the role of Mrs. Cratchit, performed by Yesenia Iglesias, a native of Puerto Rico — the child of two Afro-Latino parents.

And she says it’s a decision by the director and theater company that couldn’t be more appropriate given the makeup of today’s world.

“I don’t know how long Ford’s has chosen an interracial cast but I remember my first year, also Craig’s first as Scrooge, when the cast was reflective of the various skin colors, ethnicities and nationalities that more accurately represent the world,” said Iglesias, who returns in the role for a second season.

“The emphasis was not on staying within the play’s original and historical makeup of the world in the period when it was first presented. Ours sheds a light on the world in which we live today. I like that a lot,” she said.

As for the holiday classic, she says it continues to be a fan-favorite because of its message.

“The play teaches us to be mindful of our community and emphasizes the tenet of generosity which fuels the human spirit,” she said. “Acts of kindness and charity should not and cannot be limited to one period of humanity but are the essence of who we are members of modern civilization — timeless, universal and accessible to us all.”

“Dickens’ work is not just a message that Scrooge eventually hears but something that he must put into action. It’s about being grateful for the things we have and passing what we have on to those less fortunate and more in need. That’s what we truly hope our audience will both embrace and seek to replicate in their own actions as they leave the theater.”

This year, as has become a Ford’s Theatre tradition, the cast will circulate among the audience following the show’s conclusion with baskets, seeking donations for the local charity that has been chosen for the work it does in the greater Washington area — Bright Beginnings.

“We hope and believe that as the audience each night witnesses the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, that they will similarly be compelled to share their own love and charitable feelings for a non-profit organization like Bright Beginnings whose we’ve chosen to support this year,” she said. “It’s a concrete, tangible way that allows them to put their feelings into action.”

As for the role of Mrs. Cratchit, she says that even in her fourth opportunity to portray the character, she works toward making it new, fresh and genuine.

“Doing a piece that’s a remount, of course you have to hit the marks technically and emotionally but you also want to keep it fresh both for yourself as an actor and for the audience,” she said. “For me, that means studying the script as if it were my first time, breaking away from my acting muscles and the lines I’ve already memorized so that I can get a new reaction to the work, the words and the cast.”

“What’s surprised me most is the energy I get from the children in the play. They help me enter into a motherly spirit and persona, even though I do not have children of my own. They have so much fun and interact so well together that it’s almost easy to become Mrs. Cratchit. Motherhood becomes a piece of cake for me after being around the children who are part of the cast — from Tiny Tim to those whose names are never shared. It’s a role that I have come to relish with great joy and which I never enter lightly.”

“Who doesn’t love this play, its message and its unforgettable characters,” she asked.

“A Christmas Carol” continues through Jan. 1 at Ford’s Theatre. For more information, go to www.fords.org or call 888-616-0270.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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