‘A Walking Xmas Carol’ Brings A Hip-Hop Dickens To Life In the Central West End
The holidays often provide the solace to get through colder months with shorter days and longer nights. But what happens when activities like caroling, “The Nutcracker” and Christmas parties are canceled as unsafe? The St. Louis Shakespeare Festival had an idea: holiday-themed window displays.
“The one holiday tradition that actually seems COVID-friendly is that old one of walking down an avenue and taking in the beautiful holiday window display,” said Tom Ridgley, producing artistic director for St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.
Thus “A Walking Xmas Carol,” an art-heavy walking tour and part hip-hop-inflected musical, was born.
The production draws on the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival’s socially distant adaptation of its annual Shakespeare in the Park this past summer, when Painted Black STL designed a series of arches for the summer walking tour.
This winter, 17 local artists created 21 window displays in the Central West End that reimagine themes of isolation, greed and generosity from the classic Charles Dickens novel “A Christmas Carol.”
Each window is paired with tracks from the acclaimed Q Brothers Christmas Carol. The Q Brothers are a Chicago-based hip-hop theater group; they wrote the holiday play and perform it each year at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. But this year, the Q Brothers put the play on tape for the first time ever. It makes the perfect soundtrack for the St. Louis walking tour.
On Friday’s St. Louis on the Air, Ridgley joined host Sarah Fenske to talk about the unique collaboration. Also joining the conversation was GQ, founder and creative director of the Q Brothers.
“We're in love with words. We're in love with poetry. We're word nerds, wordsmiths, whatever you want to call us,” GQ said. And it shows. The group’s adaptation of the classic tale involves witty takes and humorous wordplay.
“There's four of us with our heads together for 12 hours at a time, and it [just] spirals and spirals,” GQ explained. “And when everyone just busts out at a suggestion that's maybe 130-suggestions deep, we just know it. We're like, ‘OK, that's the one.’
“When we can make each other laugh, we know we're on the right track,” he added.
Check out how three local artists drew on an excerpt of the Q Brothers Christmas Carol for their window display:
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.