A Christmas Carol was a holiday tradition at the Goodman well before I arrived as Artistic Director. When I was hired, I remember vividly the Board of Trustees said, “You can do anything you want, but do not touch A Christmas Carol,” which was very wise advice. It really has been the heart and soul of the Goodman.
It’s so incredibly satisfying to run into people who have been coming to A Christmas Carol for 30, 40 years, and their children and grandchildren are now part of the tradition. During my time as Artistic Director, I’ve married and had three children, a 22 year-old, 18 year-old and 16 year-old, all of whom can’t imagine Christmas without A Christmas Carol. We come every year, and they’re like my very own focus group as to what they like, or don’t like, or what they want to see when they come back. As a producer I’m always able to ask them and take their opinions. On the other hand, it’s just tremendous fun that they compare and contrast and talk about the things they love.
It has become an important holiday tradition for so many people. But it’s also an entrée into the theater. So many people who come to it have not seen other productions at the Goodman. They’re bringing their families. For many people it might be the only play they see in a year, and for many families it’s the first time their children have ever seen a play in a professional setting. To be able to introduce and encourage and, with open arms, bring people into the theater is really satisfying. And A Christmas Carol, even before I arrived, was about diversity. It was clearly about creating a production in which the cast looked like the city of Chicago. It began that way and I’ve been very lucky to work with a lot of people, beginning with my partner Executive Director Roche Schulfer, to continue that tradition.
A Christmas Carol is a constant in my life; it never goes away. A 45 year-old person at the Jewel might come up to me and say, “You know, I played Belle in a production,” or “My brother played Tiny Tim.” I’ll just be out and about or seeing a movie and someone will come up and say, “I just want to thank you and the Goodman for A Christmas Carol.” People’s comments throughout the year always make me very aware of the impact that A Christmas Carol has had on people’s lives.