This week, Brian Clowdus, the artistic director of Serenbe Playhouse and CEO of Brian Clowdus Experiences, can cross something off of his bucket list — creating an immersive version of A Christmas Carol. After a sold-out, extended run with his The Edgar Allan Poe Experience this fall, he’s back at The Wren’s Nest for another immersive performance. This one is a compact version of the Dickens classic, clocking in at an hour, complete with Clowdus-esque touches. The performance runs through December 30, and we caught up with Clowdus to get his take on this holiday offering.
ArtsATL: What inspired this new version of A Christmas Carol?
Brian Clowdus: It came up after Poe, which was very successful. [The staff of] The Wren’s Nest approached me and asked if we wanted to keep this momentum going and do something for the holidays — and I said absolutely. I have been itching to do an immersive holiday Christmas Carol experience. This house feels exactly like you stepped into a Dickens novel.
ArtsATL: What distinguishes this new version?
Clowdus: It is inspired narrative-wise by the novel. The fun concept is that there is a surprise party for Scrooge so that he will once again by reminded of the Christmas spirit. When Scrooge comes in, the guests are there — the audience. There are four rooms, and audiences will get to choose what rooms they go into. I will say, though, it would behoove you to follow Scrooge and Marley. When he finds a hundred people in the house, he freaks. The ghost of Marley haunts him and turns three of the characters into ghosts — Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come — to make him realize the true joy of the season. It’s a cast of five, and three of them play other characters: Mrs. Fezziwig, Clara and Belle.
ArtsATL: Any other major differences?
Clowdus: There is a ton of music, and it will have the same vibe as Sleepy Hollow. Every room will have a song, and every character will have a signature song. Everything is played, from accordion to mandolin to guitar, and it’s all traditional Christmas music, such as “O Holy Night” to “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
There are some scary segments too, like the moments where Scrooge is being visited by the ghosts. We want to think of all those people who have seen A Christmas Carol hundreds of times at every community theater known to man and why we should do another. I think that Scrooge here is terrified, and that is what gets him to change. The ghosts haunt the hell out of him. Every day he is an awful person is one day less that he could enjoy his life. I think Carol is an amazing piece of literature that shows that even the most impossible thing is possible and that everyone is capable of love and change.
ArtsATL: What can we expect from this performance of Scrooge?
Clowdus: Daniel Burns plays Scrooge, and I have worked with Daniel for many years. I wanted a younger Scrooge. This isn’t an old curmudgeon in his final days. It is someone who has been very successful very quickly and aged very fast. Daniel was my first choice. He plays multiple instruments and sings well — and he has a huge heart to him.
ArtsATL: What makes The Wren’s Nest an ideal venue for this?
Clowdus: The venue is literally a set. When I walked in the first time, my mind exploded with possibilities. I am a huge fan of Victorian décor, and when I walked in I saw Poe and Charles Dickens. They also have this outdoor amphitheater stage, so we are talking about a spring project as well. It’s environmental theater. We are doing very little to the house because the décor and setting are so rich there.