CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- John and Dot Peerybingle and their baby boy live together in harmony with a guardian angel in the form of a cricket that stays chirping on their hearth, until the day a mysterious stranger arrives to stay and the couple's life takes a perilous turn just before Christmas.
It was one of Charles Dickens' most beloved Christmas works in Victorian England, but these days, "The Cricket on the Hearth" goes largely unnoticed.
Carol Weakland, author, actress and avid reader, wants to keep the spirit of lesser-known literature alive this holiday season. Weakland lives in Youngstown, Ohio, and is the author of the "Morgen of Avalon" series, a retelling of the tales of King Arthur from the perspective of sorceress Morgan le Fay.
"What I started to do way back in the 1990s was to put on productions in order to reintroduce people to literature that they might have heard about, but might never have read," Weakland said. "We thought that might be an interesting way for them to say, 'This is really catching my attention. I'd like to read it.'"
Weakland will perform a one-woman adaptation of "Cricket on the Hearth" at three Kanawha County Public Library branches this holiday season. Weakland, who founded Great Expectations Theatrical Productions in Ohio with the purpose of reintroducing people to beloved literature, is a lifelong fan of Dickens' work.
"I love the classics, and you certainly get them from time to time, but they're not seen all that much this day and age," she said. "It's just something that speaks so passionately to me that I wanted to share it with others."
Weakland said that while "Cricket on the Hearth" has not had the same lasting power as Dickens' other famous Christmas story of the era, "A Christmas Carol," it still serves as a powerful story about family and togetherness that makes it timeless.
"For someone like Dickens, who is so well known, and yet 'Cricket on the Hearth' is not well known -- that is something that can create new interest in a classic that might otherwise be forgotten," she said.