Most people can't be described with a singular story. That's not the case for 80-year-old veteran actor Joe Plummer, who has been bringing a unique one-man version of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale "A Christmas Carol" to audiences for nearly 50 years.
"Dickens wrote it in 1863," Plummer explained from his home in Lincoln, just south of Milford. "Then, in the late 1860s, rather than letting the story remain between the covers of a book, he went around England and America reading it. I thought it would be great fun to follow in his footsteps."
Plummer's two children were eventually incorporated into the story and in recent years, he's turned the whole show over to them. But, every so often, like this Sunday at 2 p.m. at Corbit-Calloway Library in Odessa, he finds a reason to come out of retirement, resurrecting his long coat tails and crimson vest. This weekend's performance has little to do with his affinity for Dickens' work, however.
"Honestly, I'm very fond of [Library Director] Karen Quinn," Plummer said, explaining why, at his age, he's willing to make the nearly hour-long drive to the tiny library in Odessa. "She's so appreciative and she seems so proud to bring a work of literature to life in her library."
The fondness Plummer feels for Quinn is mutual. She's been promoting the show to almost every person she talks to.
"You really have to see it to understand it," Quinn explained last week while placing a scanned photo of Plummer near the front door of the library. "What he does with his voice and his face is just amazing. It's nearly brought me to tears before and it's a show I wish everyone would try to see just once."
When Dickens read his own words aloud, Plummer said that it could take the better part of four hours. Plummer knew that audiences would never be able to sit through a four-hour performance, though, and condensed his version down to an hour and a half. In recent years, more changes have made it even shorter and, to Plummer's mind, hopefully more palatable for the busy schedules and people of today.
"I've gotten older and weaker so I've condensed it down to about half an hour. Forty minutes at the most," Plummer said. "But, I still don't read it. It's more like a recitation."
Of all the iconic characters, including the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future, Tiny Tim, and Bob Cratchit, Plummer's favorite is the story's central personality Ebenezer Scrooge.
"It's all about him and his redemption," he said, referring to Scrooge. "He loved money to a fault at the beginning of the story but by the end, he's completely transformed."
Page 2 of 2 - The transformation of Scrooge from miser to generous philanthropist is also why Plummer thinks the story endures, despite being 150 years old now.
"Scrooge changes in a way that I think we would all like to," Plummer said. "It affirms that you can and should change when the occasion arises. I mean, if an old miser like Scrooge can do a complete 180 degree turnaround, there's hope for us all, right?"