This is my 30th A Christmas Carol; to me, it’s like an old friend, something I’m really comfortable with, but still discover something unexpected. I work most closely with the Set Designer. I did not build the first show. That production was designed by Joe Neminsky, and built by the former prop shop manager. The design was quite clever; the Scrooge bedroom was a turntable, and rotated after he passed the Marley knocker and as he walked up to his bedroom. The music was live. We had three storage boxes of hand props and dressing. There wasn’t much budget for changes, and my staff was smaller so I personally dusted it off, and set up the props, which I loved.
Now, we’ve got 10 boxes, and it’s a much bigger thing. Todd Rosenthal designed our current production; he’s such a good designer, and presents us such challenging things to do. His models are amazing for A Christmas Carol; they’re so detailed! Every year, they usually identify something to update.
My favorite prop in the older A Christmas Carol was the OLD plum pudding, which decorated what we called the “food float”: a round, tiered rolling unit of ale barrels, crates, bags and all sorts of food, with the Ghost of Christmas Present sitting on top. One of the food items was an old restaurant cake stand with a big round styrofoam ball painted with white drips for icing and a sprig of holly stuck in the top, and it looked exactly like the Who pudding. The first time I opened the box, I was like, “It’s the Who pudding!” I LOVED that prop, I kept it for years. It was just such a whimsical, silly prop.
I’m part of a group, the Society of Prop Artisan Masters (or SPAM), whose members are prop shop managers and assistants from all over the country. Someone recently commented, “I know everyone’s busy dusting off their Christmas Geese this year!” You feel sort of a connection with the theatrical community. I know my friends at Milwaukee Rep are doing it, at the Guthrie, and at McCarter Theatre; the same play at the same time, with different interpretations of it.
It does put you in a holiday mood, which really is wonderful. I mean, there is a bit of, “oh, it’s that time again,” but then, it’s like, “ah, it’s A Christmas Carol!” I love the perspective of each different director. It’s truly been an honor to work with all these people…Michael Maggio, Chuck Smith, Steve Scott, and everyone’s brought different ideas to it. Chuck Smith and Bill Brown did a lot of music, and Henry’s production is a bit darker, and more about storytelling. We get to see the same show, but it’s different. You can’t not like A Christmas Carol; you have to love it.