Costume Shop Crafts & Wig Master

The first time I worked on A Christmas Carol at the Goodman was 1988. About seven years ago, as a project with my kids, I started to make found- object robots, which were coming into popularity in the crafting world. We did some, and I really enjoyed making them.  I was talking with a friend one day, and was like, I should make some A Christmas Carol ones; the characters are so iconic, they’re something I could easily translate into this version of sculpture.

The first robot was Marley, who’s probably one of my favorites. I was wondering where to start when my coworker said, “his face should be a doorknocker.” That worked well, and the rest fell into place. He is covered in random bits of old chain and locks, and I even found a little cash-box. Next, I started on Scrooge—he was harder to figure out. It took two tries before I was able to get it right. I couldn’t find the right face, so I had to sculpt it from clay. That led to the Ghost of Christmas Past. I had already found the electrical box with a glass window, and knew I wanted that to be the body. I also knew it should light up; the Ghost of Christmas Past should always light up! Ours always seems to!

I tend to use old cameras, keys and silverware. I find most of the objects at antique malls and hardware stores. But recently, family and friends have been giving me stuff to use. It makes the robots more meaningful to me, and I think it shows in the characters I’ve been able to make.

Some of the A Christmas Carol robots are inspired by the actors who’ve played these roles. I was definitely thinking of Larry when I carved Scrooge’s face. When I started Mrs. Fezziwig, I found a porcelain figure with an elegant face, and it reminded me of Penelope’s Mrs. Fezziwig. The Schoolmaster is another example. It’s a stair spindle with a wooden doorknob based off of Larry Neuman Jr. The robot is very thin and it carries a big wooden ruler.

I like the humor and the whimsy of these characters. Making them has helped to keep A Christmas Carol enjoyable for me. Christmas has always been a very busy time of year for my family. My father was a florist, and my sister and I would help him at Christmas. We would all be tired and a bit like Scrooge by Christmas Eve. My poor mother was the only one with any Christmas spirit.

I bring my family every year now. My daughter is 15 and my son is 11. They look forward to it every year. They enjoy seeing what changes and what doesn’t. They hear me talk about it at home, so it’s a part of their lives as much as it is mine. I think for most people, the holidays are about tradition. Seeing A Christmas Carol is one of our family traditions. The story is a beautiful one. It’s about how it’s not too late to change, about hope and second chances. I think we all need a little of that now. I don’t go see a lot of theater anymore. It feels like I’m working when I’m in a theater. But I do enjoy this story and watching it with my family. The story isn’t really about Christmas—it’s about Scrooge being dragged out of his miserliness, and shown how much love there is out there for him.

After all these years, which role would I like to play? Well, not the Ghost of Christmas Future—I’m afraid of heights! Not the Ghost of Christmas Past, either, for the same reason. I do a pretty good Fan impersonation, but I might be a bit too old. I guess it would have to be Marley.