HEIDI SUE MCMATH
Costume Shop Manager
This is my 30th year at the Goodman, and I’ve been the costume shop manager for most of that time. I have designed A Christmas Carol since 2001, the first year in our new building, and it’s a great joy. Charles Dickens is one of my favorite writers. I’ve worked at other theaters that produce A Christmas Carol, but kind of miss the point. The Goodman really emphasizes the message: “People, take time. Life is short. Live together, and help one another.”
I have really enjoyed watching the casts come and go. Every year, there are new people to be introduced, and I tell them, “You will love the backstage atmosphere at Christmas.” It is a bit of a family. And families squabble too, you know! The good things and the bad happen at Christmas—at home, and at the Goodman. But the spirit of it is really great, which is why actors come back year after year. And the kids are great fun. Every year, I’m just blown away by how smart they are at certain ages. I think, “Was I that smart at that age?” It’s a great joy.
The spirits are always fun to costume, especially the Ghost of Christmas Present. Back when I was doing my earlier research, I used a lot of costume history books, but now the internet has changed that. Now you have an idea, and you Google something related to it. Each year I ask the director, “What do you want to do? Why did you cast this actor and what are your goals?” This year for the Ghost of Christmas Past, Henry Wishcamper had a lot of images that came out of steampunk, which intrigued me. I didn’t want the look to be straight-on steampunk, but I liked that initial inclination, and worked to make that look feel like it belongs in this story. I hope we strike a good balance of allowing changes to the times, though. For example, people wear their hair differently compared to Dickens’ time and when we first started the show. We want the actors to bring their physicality and personalities to the roles—so we look where we can compromise the period a bit, because we really want to speak to a modern audience. Audiences should recognize that this took place long ago, but still respond like it’s happening today.
I always joke that I know all the lines in the show, so I could go on stage for anybody. I used to always tease the directors about when they were going to cast me as Belle, because obviously they are missing a golden opportunity! Now I say, if they don’t do it soon, I might just age out of it. They always go, “Oh, no!” Of course, I aged out of it 30 years ago, but I’d still go on!