"I had a lot of anger back then," says Hattiloo Theatre's founder and executive director Ekundayo Bandele, reminiscing about the first production of his original script If Scrooge Was a Brother, in 1994. "People would leave saying, 'I thought this was supposed to be a Christmas show,'" Bandele says.
Bandele, who is mounting a retooled version of the show this week, says the original script came to be because he wanted take his family to the theater. When Bandele surveyed traditional holiday fare such as The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, nothing addressed the African-American Christmas experience.
"So I flipped the script," Bandele says. He uprooted Dickens' beloved holiday nightmare and plopped it down on the poor side of town. "I remember thinking about Scrooges in the black community. Just like there can be racism between lighter- and darker-skinned blacks, even the most impoverished communities have a caste system.
"I was pretty deep into Afrocentrism back then, and I was trying to use the play to score political points," Bandele says of the original script. "With this new version, I'm trying to score cultural points."
In addition to smoothing the play's rough edges, Bandele has also developed the new Scrooge as a musical.
"My music director, Damion Pearson, has gone back to a lot of the old Christmas songs and rewritten the music. We want to do for Scrooge what The Wiz did with The Wizard of Oz."
"If Scrooge Was a Brother" opens on December 18th and runs through January 4th at Hattiloo Theatre. Tickets are $15.
Call 502-3486 for additional information.