By HOPE RUDZINSKI
DUDLEY, Mass.—Sometimes the paths we plan to take in life end up being different than the ones on which we actually do embark.
That’s been the experience of Nichols College Library Director Jim Douglas, a former well-established folksinger who is currently starring as the classic Christmas-season character everyone loves to hate: Ebenezer Scrooge in Barre Players Theater’s performance of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The final performance dates are Dec. 7-9, at 64 Common St., Barre, Mass. Telegram & Gazette reviewer Kevin Baldwin called Douglas’ portrayal of Scrooge an “inspired interpretation” of the miser.
Douglas, who has been director of Nichols’ Conant Library since 2001, views acting as one of his hobbies. He’s starred in roles large and small, in 40 plays put on by several local community theater companies, including Stageloft Repertory in Sturbridge, Gateway Players in Southbridge, and Barre Players.
And he’s appreciated every role he’s had, from being an extra in the background, to the star at front and center.
“Just to be a part of any show is an honor,” said Douglas. “There are so many good actors and characters, so I was lucky to be recognized. I was in the right place at the right time when I started in community theater.”
A librarian since 1995 and a scholar and educator since 1973, Douglas studied at Marietta College in Ohio for his undergraduate degree and earned a master’s degree in history at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. He later earned a Master of Library Science degree at Southern Connecticut State University in Hamden, where he received a Distinguished Research Award and was inducted into Beta Phi Mu—the librarian honor society.
When asked what he likes most about being a librarian in the digital age, Douglas said: “Finding and getting information for our students and others, regardless of format, is always rewarding. What has changed is that we now have access to so much more information than ever before and knowing one’s way through the maze and haze can be challenging and, therefore, interesting.”
Douglas, who grew up in Pleasantville, N.Y., credited his professional folk-singing background with strengthening his acting chops later in life. For 25 years, he sang in Irish bars, folk festivals, and then as an historical balladeer and storyteller in schools and libraries throughout New England. Douglas has also recorded six albums and published a handful of books for teachers who wanted to teach history through folk songs.
“I never thought I’d be in theater,” said the Sturbridge resident. “But my folk-singing experience actually helped with acting, particularly with my timing and memorization skills.”
It was his daughter, an actress in New York City, though, who inspired him to take the plunge and follow his passion for acting.
“I watched her practice script after script and helped her remember lines,” said Douglas. “I had a certain feeling when reading the lines. As I helped her numerous times, she told me I should pursue acting, so I did.”
Sometimes actors will do bizarre things for their role, and Douglas has experienced that first hand.
“I was performing in a play called ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and I had to be an onstage sound effect. It was my greatest memory from this performance. I had to smash a real glass every time during the end of the show with a hammer,” he said with a laugh. “It was a fun time.”
Side note: Who’s his favorite folk singer?
“There are too many Irish folksingers to mention!” Douglas said.
Hope Rudzinski is a junior English major and communications minor, and a public relations assistant in the Nichols College Office of Marketing and Communications.