Arts and Entertainment

'Meet Mr. Dickens': Writer’s great-great-grandson brings show to SJCT

Gerald Dickens, great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), performs Nov. 8 in the San Juan Community Theatre. - Courtesy Gerald Dickens
Gerald Dickens, great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens (1812-1870), performs Nov. 8 in the San Juan Community Theatre.
— image credit: Courtesy Gerald Dickens

June 9, 1970 was the centenary of the writer Charles Dickens’ death. For most, the date would mean no more than a celebration of the famous author. For six-year-old Gerald Dickens, however, it meant something more personal.

Dickens is the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, and the centenary marked a realization of this important relationship.

“The family was invited to a special memorial service in Westminster Abbey where Charles is buried,” the writer’s descendant said. “Like any six-year-old, I was a bit bored by the whole affair so was gazing around when I suddenly realized that the Queen Mother was sitting at the end of the same pew. THAT made an impression ... As a young child, it was amazing to watch TV adaptations and then see your name come upon the credits at the end of the show.”

It is a family connection that would go on to influence Dickens’ acting career. In 1993, Dickens created his first one-man show, a theatrical performance of “A Christmas Carol,” inspired by Charles Dickens’ own energetic readings of the 1860s. Dickens’ fascination with his great-great-grandfather led him to write and direct further shows, including “Nicholas Nickleby” and “Mr. Dickens is Coming!,” the upcoming performance at San Juan Community Theatre on Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.

"Mr. Dickens is Coming!" is a show based on the life of Dickens, especially his love of the theater. "It uses extracts from novels, diary entries, observations of people who worked and lived around him, as well as my narration from a 21st century viewpoint," Dickens said. "It is entertaining, irreverent and varied. I try never to make my shows too academic. What I set out to do is to make Dickens entertaining and lively and I hope people leave the theater with a smile on their face."

Dickens' performances have gained international notoriety. Born in England, he performs extensively in the United Kingdom, the United States, on cruise ships and elsewhere in the world.

"I perform a great deal in the UK in theaters, at festivals, for literary organizations and even in private homes. The works of Dickens have always been used as required reading in British schools and a lot of people, myself included, have very bad memories of ploughing through 1,000-page novels. So, when people see the show and realize how fun the characters are or how much they can be moved by the novels, they see Dickens in a new light. The reaction is always very positive ... Dickens' great love was the theater, so I think, and hope, that he would enjoy and approve of the shows."

The business partner for the evening is Griffin Bay Bookstore. Tickets are $16 for adults, $8 for student reserved with $5 RUSH at the door. The Box Office is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.sjctheatre.org.

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