A Christmas Carol en La Frontera
Based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Adapted by Professor Jay Stratton and Dr. Adriana Domínguez
A Christmas Carol en La Frontera
by: Jay Stratton and Adriana Domínguez
Since the early 2000s, the Department of Theatre and Dance at The University of Texas at El Paso had produced a traditional version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol as a winter holiday mainstay. The show was beloved by neither the department’s faculty nor students, but the consistent revenue from school matinees helped fund the rest of the season.
In 2018, the department felt it was time to revitalize the sagging production. Some consideration was given to simply dropping the piece, but the title created a point of contact with an audience that was otherwise unserved at the University. The decision was made that the piece would be entirely reconceived while still maintaining the Christmas Carol title, spirit, and fundamental storyline.
Sitting on the U.S. - Mexican border, El Paso, Texas is a city with approximately 80% Latinx residents, and the University mirrors these demographics. Every aspect of the culture of El Paso is influenced by its identity as a border city. It is uniquely American, and uniquely Mexican-American. With this in mind, the project leaders decided to place the story of Ebenezer (Benito) Scrooge on the border and title it A Christmas Carol en la Frontera.
In the process of adapting the classic to fit la frontera, the co-adapters leaned into and further investigated the intricate and personal experience of language and identity. Due to the unique positioning and politics specific to la frontera, the intentional choice was made to further investigate how the main character, Ebeneezer Scrooge, had abandoned his own Mexican roots in his search for prosperity in the United States. Throughout the adaptation, Scrooge only speaks Spanish when demanding money from those he deems beneath him and makes willful choices in his abandonment of his raices. While re-visiting his past, he relives the calculated decisions of anglicizing his name, turning his back on supporting his community, and removing himself from Mexican culture. It is only through personal acknowledgement of who he is that Scrooge is able to find redemption, honor his identity, and embrace his native language. This investigation of language and identity was core to the positioning of the story as many on la frontera have lived the same reality.
The community response was and has continued to be broadly positive. In 2018, we distributed a feedback form to the school group teachers that attended the student matinees. We received responses from teachers of kindergarten through 12th grade. Most responses celebrated the bi-cultural nature of the production and several teachers indicated that their students connected more strongly to the material because the characters they saw on stage more closely resembled figures from their own lives. Of course, the positive response was not uniform. Out of 36 responses, a single teacher indicated that the swapping between English and Spanish was confusing and suggested that the play be spoken on alternating performances entirely in English or Spanish. The department appreciated this feedback but felt that segregating the performances by language would actually diminish unifying intentions of a bilingual Christmas show.
Since 2018, over 10,000 people have experienced A Christmas Carol en la Frontera. After four years of live and radio productions, it has been made even more clear that the intersections of language and identity are inseparable; an increased incorporation of Spanish in the piece on la frontera can continue to frame and validate experiences.
2018: Live Production directed by Jay Stratton
2019: Live Production directed by Rafa Perez
2020: Radio Production directed by Greg Thompson
2021: Live Production directed by Greg Thompson
For more information on this adaptation, please contact:
Professor Jay Stratton, jastratton[at]utep[dot]edu
Dr. Adriana Domínguez, adrianad[at]utep[dot]edu
 U.S. Census Bureau. “U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: El Paso County, Texas; United States,” Quickfacts: El Paso County, Texas; United States, U.S. Census Bureau, Census.gov., Accessed July 24, 2022.
 "At a Glance," UTEP, Utep.edu., Accessed July 24, 2022.