When Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in 1843, he probably didn’t imagine it would make its way onto stages worldwide and lend itself to diverse adaptations.
Memphis theatre luminary Ekundayo Bandele’s play, “If Scrooge Was a Brother/Sistah,” proves the universality and adaptability of this holiday tale about the importance of generosity and community.
Performances at Hattiloo Theatre, 37 South Cooper St., run Nov. 30 to Dec. 23; with evening shows Thursday through Friday at 7:30 p.m.; and matinees on Saturday (2 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.).
Brother becomes sistah
Bandele’s take on Dickens’ story continues to evolve. When first produced by Hattiloo in 2008 — the company’s third season — the play was titled “If Scrooge Was a Brother.” It focused on a corrupt black businessman, nicknamed “Scroo,” who operates a predatory lending service inherited from his white employer, Boss Marley. Scroo won’t help anyone, including his nephew, who is orphaned when Scroo’s sister works herself into an early grave.
This year, Bandele further stretches Dickens’ tale by casting women as Scrooge and Marley. Ebenita Scrooge is a greedy realtor whose white mentor, Madame Marley, aided Ebenita’s upward mobility by paying for her schooling. Access to the privilege of good schooling is one of many key elements shared by both versions of the play.
But, similar to Brother Scroo, Sistah Scroo isn’t interested in paying it forward. Ebenita has no room in her heart for the poor, so Madame Marley visits from the grave to warn her about the negative consequences she can expect in the afterlife if she doesn’t change.
Florence “Flo” Roach, who appeared in the 2011 movie “The Help,” portrays Scroo. Roach heads the Ettaro Theater Company, which is partnering with Hattiloo on the production.
How Hattiloo got its name
Aside from writing and directing, Bandele founded Hattiloo. It is one of the nation’s few black repertory companies and concentrates on works by African-American writers. Bandele named it for his daughters Hatshepsut (Hatti) and Oluremi (Loo).
In September 2017, The Daily News quoted Bandele as seeing himself “as a servant to the cultural renaissance of the city.” In 2018, TEDx Memphis reported that to build Hattiloo Theatre, Bandele led a capital campaign garnering $4.3 million and completed the project debt-free in the popular Overton Square district.
To purchase tickets to “If Scrooge Was a Brother/Sistah” or other productions, contact Hattiloo Theatre here.
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