WILLA J. TAYLOR
Walter Director of Education and Engagement
I am responsible for all the students who come to performances of A Christmas Carol—we partner with schools from across the city—and all the community programming at the Goodman. Our programs bring in people as young as 8 to as old as 88.
The Goodman produces A Christmas Carol every year, and it’s how we introduce new schools to our School Matinee Series. A Christmas Carol is a perfect introductory show, not just because it’s an annual event, but because it’s a really terrific story of redemption and forgiveness. Everybody knows the story, to some degree—there’s a phenomenal Muppet movie adaptation that’s one of my favorites—so students have some familiarity coming in. And it’s the show where we open our “55 gallon drum of theatrical magic”: it snows, giant set pieces move on and off stage, there’s fog and people fly! It’s fabulous, and a great entry point to theater.
For most of our students, especially those who come to see A Christmas Carol, this is probably the first theatrical production they’ve ever seen. They come both with a naiveté and an enthusiasm, so excited to be in the theater. The snow always gets an audible reaction. Then, the Ghost of Christmas Future shows up, and it scares them. That’s one of the things they always talk about, and with such verve, so I love participating in post-show discussions.
The directors of A Christmas Carol, particularly Henry Wishcamper who’s directing this year, really make an effort to make the show look like the city in which it lives. So the casting, with an eye toward inclusion, is really important to the Goodman. It’s amazing when students see people who look like them on stage. Kareem Bandealy, who plays Scrooge especially for the student matinees, and in previous years Allen Gilmore, gives our students a whole new way of entering the story that they probably won’t see any place else.
I’d want to play the Ghost of Christmas Present. That costume is really incredible. Costume designer Heidi Sue McMath gave students a terrific explanation of the layering of the fabric and its reaction to the lights on stage, and how that affects costumes. Plus, it’s the most joyful character in the show, embodying the spirit of Christmas in a way that no other character does.