Being Scrooge

In more than 30 years onstage in New England and beyond, actor/director George Piehl has played many major roles. But one that seems to suit him especially well is that of the cold-hearted miser Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which he performs each year at the Palace Theatre. It’s not that there’s anything miserly or cold-hearted about Piehl, but that his gift for acting allows him to be convincingly so and then, after the Ghosts come and go, make the transformation into someone vibrant and full of life. Piehl’s love of theatre led him to create Stage One Productions (, a successful dinner theatre in his hometown of Manchester. He first walked into the klieg lights as a teenager, when he played an Okinawan villager in a community theatre production of “Teahouse of the August Moon.” His only line — “Ahh, naka’ naka’ sudeski desna!” But he says that’s all he needed: “My delivery of the line was so funny the audience laughed and applauded. I was hooked.”“A Christmas Carol” was written more than 150 years. Why has it endured so long?

As in all classic literature the theme is universal and timeless. Greed, power, love, generosity and, of course, redemption. “Christmas Carol” is the story of one man’s journey to rediscover the goodness and joy of life.

What do you like about playing Scrooge?

I get to portray a character that at the beginning of the play shows only the very worst in humankind and by the end of the play becomes the very best of humanitarians.

Before his epiphany did Scrooge have any redeeming characteristics?

It’s very important that we see Scrooge as a young boy. Sensitive, shy and loving. He is not a man who was born evil, just someone who has lost his way. Underneath the cruel, hard, covetous exterior is the boy he once was.

If you could be just one, would you be a director or an actor?

Actor, actor, actor. It is my first and best destiny.

You created Stage One Productions dinner theatre. Why that kind of venue? Aren’t the clinking spoons and glasses distracting?

Food is never distracting. Where will you find people having the best time at a party? Where the food is! In the kitchen or around the dinner table. Theatre should be a good time.

Did you stage plays as a kid?

No. I was an actor, not a producer. My older sister, however, took great joy in dressing me up and putting on skits and musical extravaganzas for the neighborhood kids. I also went through about eight wedding ceremonies with the girl across the street before I reached the age of 10.

Ever dream of New York or Hollywood?

Of course I do. What actor doesn’t? But I could never give up what I have here. Family, friends and a real sense of home. People know me here and respect my work. I consider myself very lucky to have the career I have here in N.H.

If you had the money that Scrooge had, what would you do with it?

I would like to be able to spend the rest of my life entertaining people without having to worry where my next meal was coming from. Hearing them laugh and seeing them smile and being able to, if only for a moment, make them forget their troubles and feel the joy of being alive.

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