Last year was my first in the production. I played Mrs. Cratchit, which was really fun. This year I’m playing Belle, and I’m really excited to be back! For a very awkward, frumpy, unpopular, mustached-ridden girl—an Arab, Muslim, from a small town—it’s a dream to be at one of the biggest theaters in the nation doing a classic story with people I love. The Goodman has opened this show up to be reflective of every family, culture and ethnicity, so I’m honored to be a part of this production.

I’m an actor who is really hopeful that, in the future, I’ll get to play roles that are typically played by men. Women recently played Hamlet and Richard III, and I think, maybe someday, old Scrooge could be a woman. I could say “Bah, humbug!” like nobody’s business! It would be a lot of fun, so I look forward to being an old woman in this industry just cranking out the hits. Polyester pants, violet hair…I feel like I’m already inching there, just a little bit, so I’m just going to go full in. It’ll be fun.

I love the performances when students attend, and I love collecting donations for Season of Concern. You stand in your costume, and as kids approach you, they want to tell you something they loved about the story. Interacting with families and having young kids see the show for the first time is the best part. Everyone in the cast knows the story, and it’s this thing we perform every night—but sometimes for these folks, it’s the first show they’ve ever seen live. And it’s really an important experience for them.

We have also performed for families of veterans, which is really special. The amount of joy in the room, all the cheering and happiness, was so wonderful. Everybody was so kind afterwards. I thought, “this was an important show.” Those kind of performances really mean the most to you.

As  adults, it’s easy to be jaded and feel like we are bombarded with bad news. Christmas is the time of year when we can look at our fellow man and realize that they’re not that different from us. That’s a notion we constantly have to be reminded of—so there’s a reason people have come back for 40 years. We leave the theater feeling that spirit of giving to your fellow man, and that we’re all in this crazy world together.