A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre

See how a holiday classic has evolved on the historic Ford’s Theatre stage.

A Washington Tradition
Since 1979

Since Ford’s Theatre Society reintroduced live theatre on the historic stage in 1968, no play has been as consistently produced as "A Christmas Carol." The play provides an excellent example of Lincoln’s values in action as Ebenezer Scrooge discovers the true wealth found in charity toward others. Since 1979, Ford’s Theatre has delighted Washington audiences with three adaptations of the timeless Charles Dickens classic. From life-size puppets to flying ghosts, come explore how this tradition has changed over the decades.

A Christmas Carol First Edition (1843) by John LeechFord's Theatre

From Page to the
Ford’s Stage

The first authorized theatrical version of Charles Dickens’s novella "A Christmas Carol" appeared in 1844—not long after the book’s initial publication. Dickens’s story of the redemptive power of Christmas gave hope to the growing underclass, whose celebration of the holiday waned as economic and social conditions worsened as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The holiday classic has proven to be a lasting tradition worldwide. The novel has never been out of print and has been adapted numerous times for theatre, radio and television.

Dickens's American Acquaintances (1867-12-21)Original Source: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-132078

The year before Dickens published A Christmas Carol, he had toured the United States—and roundly criticized the country upon his return to Britain. Because of this, "A Christmas Carol" and Dickens’s other novels did not initially gain a following in the United States.

Charles Dickens Performing in the United States (1867) by C.A BarryOriginal Source: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-132077

Dickens's reputation in the United States rebounded during the Civil War. As a result, he gave readings before sold-out crowds along the East Coast—including in Washington—in 1867-68. Dickens performed the entire text of A Christmas Carol 76 times on that tour.

Cast of A Christmas Carol (1979) by Joan MarcusFord's Theatre

Bringing "A Christmas Carol" to Ford's

In 1979, Ford’s Theatre premiered its first production of "A Christmas Carol." Distinctive for its haunting scenery and ghostly apparitions, this production ran for six years.   

Cast of A Christmas Carol, 1979, From the collection of: Ford's Theatre
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Actors singing carols outside the theatre welcomed the audience. Carolers performed Britten’s "Ceremony of Carols," a version of which you can hear by clicking the video.

John Morgal as Tiny Tim and Geoff Garland as Bob Cratchit (1979)Ford's Theatre

In 1979, for the first time in the institution’s history, the theatre cast leading roles using Washington-based actors—a tradition Ford’s is proud to continue to this day.


Pictured are John Morgal as Tiny Tim and Geoff Garland as Bob Cratchit.

David Long as Jacob Marley, 1979, From the collection of: Ford's Theatre
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Actors made larger-than-life portrayed the four ghosts.

Steven Crossly as Ebenezer Scrooge (2000) by Stan BarouhFord's Theatre

The Dark Side of
Christmas

In 1987, then-Artistic Director David Bell created a new adaptation of "A Christmas Carol." This adaptation ran on the historic Ford’s Theatre stage for 16 years.

Ron Parady as Ebenezer Scrooge and Frank Kopyc as the Ghost of Christmas Present (1995) by Stan BarouhFord's Theatre

Instead of using oversized ghost puppets and carolers, as the previous script had done, Bell’s adaptation had a stronger link to Dickens’s literary approach.

Frank Kopyc as The Ghost of Christmas Present. Children: Matthew Gardiner and Heather Lee Soroka (1991) by Joan MarcusFord's Theatre

This version embraced the darkness of Dickens's novel. The stage was filled with workhouse children, starving beggars and traders, all lurking in the haunting shadows.

Martin Rayner as Ebenezer Scrooge (2005) by T. Charles EricksonFord's Theatre

A Voyage through Scrooge’s Imagination

 In 2004, Ford’s began using an adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” by Michael Wilson. This adaptation has had two different productions. The first production, directed by Matt August in 2004, ran for five years. In 2009, Director Michael Baron created a new production.

Martin Rayner as Charles Dickens (2005) by T. Charles EricksonFord's Theatre

In 2004, Director Matt August was inspired by Dickens’s Washington performance of A Christmas Carol during his 1867-68 U.S. tour. As such, in this production, Dickens welcomed the audience and briefly introduced the story.

Suzanne Richard as the Ghost of Christmas Past (2005) by T. Charles EricksonFord's Theatre

In this production, Dickens takes the audience on a journey through his imagination. He transforms into Scrooge, street vendors morph into the Christmas ghosts and Marley haunts Scrooge’s conscience long before he appears in chains.

Martin Rayner as Ebenezer Scrooge (2005) by T. Charles EricksonFord's Theatre

In 2005, director Matt August featured a Snowman in scenes from Ebenezer Scrooge’s memories of Christmas Past—a significant departure from the Dickens novel.

Craig Wallace as Ebenezer Scrooge, and James Konicek as Jacob Marley (2012) by Scott SuchmanFord's Theatre

A Ghost Story of
Christmas

In 2009, Ford’s introduced a new production directed by Michael Baron, using the same script that Michael Wilson adapted from the novel. The new and more traditional incarnation included a darker stage and a spookier atmosphere. Jacob Marley, for instance, is first seen standing behind his own portrait between lightning strikes and claps of thunder.

Cast of A Christmas Carol (2012) by Scott SuchmanFord's Theatre

This version captured the magic and joy of Dickens’s classic with dancing and carols, including "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," "O Christmas Tree," "Good King Wenceslas" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful."

Click on the video to learn why Ford's production of A Christmas Carol deliberately uses carols.

A Christmas Carol Set (2009) by T. Charles EricksonFord's Theatre

The scenery, designed by Lee Savage, is inspired by London’s Covent Garden marketplace. It has a large clock that strikes to mark the appearance and disappearance of Scrooge’s ghost visitors.

The Young Cast of A Christmas Carol (2013) by Scott SuchmanFord's Theatre

Meet the Actors

Every year since 2009, a company of 18 adult actors and 13 child actors brings "A Christmas Carol" to life. 

Justine "Icy" Moral as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Christmas Future (2017) by Carol RoseggFord's Theatre

In the current adaptation, Justine “Icy” Moral plays both the Ghosts of Christmas Past and Christmas Future. Moral first appears as a doll vendor who subsequently controls a puppet Ghost of Christmas Future.

Matthew Gardiner as Director of "The Laramie Project," Child in "A Christmas Carol", Gary Erskine and Carolina Dulcey, Joan Marcus, 2013, From the collection of: Ford's Theatre
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In 1987, Matthew Gardiner played the role of a workhouse child in the Ford’s Theatre second adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

In 2013, Gardiner returned to Ford’s as Director of The Laramie Project.

Tre Jones as Tiny Tim, Bobby Smith as Bob Cratchit (2013) by Scott SuchmanFord's Theatre

Tre Jones played Tiny Tim in the 2013 Ford’s Theatre production of A Christmas Carol. In 2015, Jones went on to play Young Simba in Disney's The Lion King National Tour.

The Cratchit Family (2017) by Carol RoseggFord's Theatre

For 21 seasons and three different versions of the show at Ford’s, Amy McWilliams played Tiny Tim’s mother Mrs. Cratchit.

Edward Gero as Ebenezer Scrooge (2014) by Scott SuchmanFord's Theatre

Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero first played the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in 2009 and continued through the 2015 production.

Craig Wallace as Ebenezer Scrooge and Rayanne Gonzales as the Ghost of Christmas Present (2017) by Carol RoseggFord's Theatre

Since November 2016, acclaimed actor Craig Wallace has portrayed Ebenezer Scrooge.

James Konicek as Jacob Marley (2014) by Scott SuchmanFord's Theatre

In previous versions of A Christmas Carol, the chains attached to Jacob Marley’s costume were not real. In the current production, actor James Konicek requested to use real chains and a heavy cash box to add authenticity to his performance.

Click on the video to watch how James Konicek transforms to Marley's Ghost.

Cast of A Christmas Carol (2016) by Carolina DulceyFord's Theatre

A powerful story of redemption, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol at Ford’s enchants audiences with the message of selfless giving not only through the performance but by raising money for Washington-based charities at the end of each performance, a tradition since 2009.

Credits: Story

Exhibition Developers:
Minne Atairu, Digital History Intern
LeVern Hamer, Artistic Programming Intern

Exhibition Managers:
Patrick Pearson, Director of Artistic Programming
David McKenzie, Associate Director for Digital Resources

Editors:
Kristin Fox, Deputy Director and Director of Programming
Sarah Jencks, Director of Education and Leadership
Liza Lorenz, Director of Communications and Digital Strategy
Lauren Beyea, Associate Director of Communications and Marketing
Sara Cohen, Marketing Manager
Heather Hoagland, Exhibitions and Collections Manager
Tatum Walker, Associate Director for Digital Strategy

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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