Commissioner carries Christmas tradition

Lincoln County Commissioner Claire Hall has volunteered to carry on a Christmas tradition started by David Ogden Stiers years ago at the Newport Performing Arts Center. Hall will give a public reading of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” on Sunday, Dec. 23, beginning at 2 p.m. (Photo by Shelby Wolfe)

'A Christmas Carol' to be read at PAC

For those who made David Ogden Stiers’ holiday readings an annual tradition, County Commissioner Claire Hall has volunteered to carry the torch.

Stiers, who was nationally known for his television and movie careers, was a long-term resident and active member of the Lincoln County community. He strongly supported local arts, as well as using his status to promote the work of local charities. His holiday readings were one such way of doing so — while there was no charge for admission, audience members were encouraged to donate at the door. Those funds were then given to local causes that were close to his heart.

Hall attended a few of these performances, and they left a lasting impression.

“He had a marvelous voice, a marvelous stage presence,” said Hall. “I think we were so lucky to have a world-class artistic talent like him right in our community — and really in the community, invested in the community.”

“When he passed away this spring, I thought, ‘what a loss, what an irreplaceable loss,’” said Hall. “But I thought it would be sad to see this tradition die out as well.”

After consulting with Catherine Rickbone, executive director of Oregon Coast Council for the Arts, it was decided that Hall would help the tradition continue in a slightly new direction.

On Dec. 23, beginning at 2 p.m. Hall will be performing a dramatic public reading of a story very close to her heart: “A Christmas Carol.”

“It’s a story I loved as a child — both reading it and its many dramatizations, in film and television,” explained Hall. “To me it just really sums up the spirit of what this season is really about. I love its themes of family and redemption … and also, something that maybe resonates a little bit even more strongly with me — look at Scrooge: found out it’s never too late to change.”

To read “A Christmas Carol” in full, Hall estimated it would take about three hours. She will be reading from the “prompt version” that Dickens, himself, performed for the public after the novel’s release 175 years ago. This edition takes approximately 90 minutes, which Hall felt would be a perfect length for a public reading.

While Stiers previously performed his readings in the Alice Silverman theater, at least for this year, Hall will be reading in the studio theater, which, appropriately enough, was recently renamed the David Ogden Stiers Theater.

Following in Stiers’ footsteps, admission to the performance is by donation, which will be donated to three local causes: Samaritan House, Newport Symphony Orchestra and the performing arts center’s capital campaign.

“My thinking is just do this, see how it goes over and, if there’s enough interest, to do it again next year and help out some other charities,” said Hall. “I can’t replace him, is my thinking, but I hope that in some way I can be a worthy successor.”