Last year, I took my two kids—nine-year-old Nina and six-year-old Cyrus—to see A Christmas Carol for the first time. At the Goodman, we often talk about how A Christmas Carol is a magical introduction to the art of the theater for thousands of Chicagoans. Bringing my own kids for their first experience, I realized that it also provides a perfect opportunity to introduce your kids to one of the great pleasures of being a theater lover: talking about the show afterwards!

Here are some topics you might enjoy discussing with your kids, perhaps over a cup of hot cocoa:

Artistic: Encourage your kids to describe specifically what they saw, what they liked and disliked, and why. Which characters did they like? Which performers? What aspects of the design did they respond to? Did certain moments make them feel sad, happy, scared? Articulating what they saw and how they felt about it will deepen their critical thinking, imaginations, aesthetic appreciation of the show and their sense of themselves as artists.

Empathy: Empathy is one of the main themes of the play. It is also one of the greatest gifts that attending theater can give us. Scrooge himself is a great mechanism for talking about empathy with your kids. How do we feel about Scrooge? Can we imagine and understand why he behaves the way he does at the beginning of the play? How do our feelings about him change as Scrooge changes? What does Scrooge gain emotionally once he changes how he treats other people? How are we like Scrooge in our lives?

Charity: Few works of art make as powerful an argument for the value of charity. If you can, consider making a small contribution in the lobby to Season of Concern. While the message of the play is fresh, make a concrete plan for the charitable gifts your family would like to make this holiday season.

Engineering: A Christmas Carol is filled with spectacular special effects. Encourage your kids to describe one effect that captured their imagination and guess how it might have been achieved by our designers, production staff and stage crew. They might like drawing what they imagine happens backstage to bring that effect to life. If so, please send me a copy; I’d love to see what they come up with!*

Ghosts: For some kids, the ghosts are the most fun part of the show. Others (like mine) are really scared by them. I found that the ghosts required an ongoing discussion in our family for some time as my kids grappled with both their emotional response to the ghosts and the message they bring to Scrooge.

What resemblances did your kids find in the story to today’s world? What messages can they find in the play that might benefit our nation, our city or their own school?

The Political: There are clearly many resonances in Dickens’ story to today’s political climate. What resemblances did your kids find in the story to today’s world? What messages can they find in the play that might benefit our nation, our city or their own school?

The Spiritual: What connections do your kids draw between the play and your family’s religious and spiritual values and traditions?

Reflections for the Year Ahead: The holidays provide us all with our own opportunity for renewal. Take a moment as a family to reflect on areas in your lives that each person would like to do better at in 2018. I hope you enjoy the show today. And I hope you’ll enjoy the conversations you’ll have about it as a family in the days, weeks and years to come.

Henry Wishcamper

*Drawings can be mailed to:
Henry Wishcamper
Goodman Theatre
170 N Dearborn St.
Chicago, IL 60610