When it came time for the Santa Susana Repertory Company to cast someone to play Scrooge in its 10th annual production of "A Christmas Carol," the company wanted a "name" actor. Notices were sent out, advising Hollywood talent agents.
"Many times, agents submit their clients, appropriate or not," said the show's director, Allan Hunt, during a recent interview. "Which is the only way I can explain why we were pitched people including Tommy Lasorda and [longtime "Tonight Show" producer] Fred deCordova."
The former Los Angeles Dodgers manager might seem an unlikely choice to portray an English misanthrope from the Edwardian era, but so might Walter Koenig, the man who will be playing Scrooge. Koenig is a veteran actor best known for his longtime portrayal of Ensign Pavel Chekov, navigator of the USS Enterprise in the "Star Trek" television series and subsequent films.
In fact, Koenig has a long list of acting credits outside the "Star Trek" universe, most without Chekov's Russian accent. And he has worked with Hunt before, most notably on the play "The Boys in Autumn," presented at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in early 1995.
Hunt directed the play, which originated in Los Angeles and toured nationally. And when Hunt directed his first Santa Susana production, "Man of La Mancha" some years back, Koenig's wife, actress Judy Levitt, was in the cast.
In addition, Santa Susana artistic director Lane Davies (who will appear as the Spirit of Christmas Present) worked with Koenig in a staged reading of H.G. Wells' "The Time Machine," presented in Westlake in 1994.
Although Koenig (whose father was from Lithuania . . . "but he was a Russian") has used many accents in roles through the years, he says he won't be playing his current character as "Scrooginski."
The actor allows that this will be his first try at an English accent, and readily admits he was relatively unfamiliar with "A Christmas Carol."
"I think I may have seen one production on television," he ventured in an interview last week.
"So I don't know if what I'm bringing to the part is unconventional, or what. I think I'm bringing humanity to the character."
Scrooge, he said, had given up the chance of love because he was driven to succeed in his career.
"It is the pain he has masked that has caused him to become the person he is," Koenig said. "I think he felt abandoned, and that money was the one thing he could rely on, he had control over, and could give shape to his career and, ultimately, his destiny."
Director Hunt said he is pleased to have Koenig taking on Scrooge, and believes he brings much to the part.
"Walter has an extremely dry sense of humor that doesn't generally have a chance to surface," noted Hunt.
"There's a great deal of 'twinkle' in Scrooge. It's a big undertaking for him--he's always on stage and with a huge amount of dialogue. The cast, many of whom have been in several productions of the show, have been most welcoming to him."
"A Christmas Carol" opens Friday and continues through Dec. 19 at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza's Forum Theater, 2100 Thousand Oaks Blvd.. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, with matinees at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 12, 18 and 19 only. There will be no performance Dec. 10. Tickets are $25; $22 seniors and students; and $15 children 12 and under. They can be purchased at the box office or through TicketMaster at 583-8700. For group rates, call 522-8010; for further general information, call (818) 991-8848.
Todd Everett can be reached at email@example.com.