In this blog we learn about how Chicago actor Molly Wagner got her inspiration for adapting A Christmas Carol for Ignite Theatre, an interactive and immersive passion project that debuts in December.
Every December, for as long as I can remember, I would find a little red book sitting on my dad’s bedside table. It was his own private tradition– to read Charles Dickens’ beloved classic A Christmas Carol every holiday season. How anyone could read the same book every year without getting bored was beyond me. My only exposure to A Christmas Carol was The Muppet’s version– and while I loved The Muppets, I really didn’t care that much about a grumpy old man named Ebeneezer Scrooge.
It wasn’t until my junior year of college, sitting backstage watching Ball State University’s production of A Christmas Carol, when I realized that the magic of the story has very little to do with Ebeneezer Scrooge. Watching the pure joy and frivolity at the home of Scrooge’s nephew filled me with such a sense of wonder and merriment that I immediately read my dad’s copy and understood that Dickens wasn’t writing about an old curmudgeon, but about all of the people in his life who kept the spirit of love, warmth and companionship alive in their hearts, even during the coldest of months. I knew then, that I had to bring this story to a life in a way that an audience can experience in a way more engaging than looking at words on a book or sitting in a dark theatre.
I mulled the idea around for years and when I revisited the story this September I finally sat down with my dad’s weathered copy and my laptop and devised a way to bring A Christmas Carol to life. I created this new adaptation with the idea that I wanted the audience to be able to dance at the Fezziwigs ball, play games with Scrooge’s nephew and share hot cocoa with Tiny Tim. And after it was all written, I thought “now what?”
That’s when a little holiday magic came early to me in the form of a woman named Tehilla Newman. In early October I was discussing my concept with a friend at an audition and lamenting the fact that I had no idea how I would be able to bring a production of this scale to fruition.
“Excuse me.” Turning around, I found myself face to face with a woman who absolutely exuded energy and vivacity. “I couldn’t help but overhear your Christmas Carol idea. I happen to work for a company that is actually looking to produce a show for the holidays and this project sounds like a perfect fit.”
She handed me a bright pink business card with a sock monkey jumping on a pogo stick, and the name “Catalyst Ranch” in bold lettering. The next couple of weeks were a whirlwind of emails and meetings–bouncing ideas off of one another and growing more and more excited about the project with each passing day. It was miraculous to find, by mere happenstance, someone who was as excited about creating a unique theatrical experience as I was, and the setting of Catalyst Ranch couldn’t have been more perfect! Once I stepped into the space on Randolph Street I was greeted by friendly, eager faces and a jolt of energy that seemed to vibrate off the brightly colored walls. Each room, nook and cranny was filled with an assortment of unique and creative seating areas and knick-knacks. The sheer individuality of the entire space told me that together we were going to be able to create something truly new and magical.