Before she took the reins as the Omaha Community Playhouse’s artistic director in June, she co-directed the Playhouse’s touring production of the 2015 show, and the year prior shadowed former artistic director Carl Beck and former associate artistic director Susan Baer Collins the last year they directed the touring production.
But the mainstage production? The one that is celebrating its 41st anniversary this year? The version those of us in Omaha know and love as the Playhouse’s time-honored tradition?
No, she hasn’t directed that one yet. But not to worry. Some familiar faces are coming back this year to pass along every little production detail to Hickman and the Playhouse’s associate director, Jeff Horger.
Just as Charles Jones, the Playhouse’s artistic director who created the production, passed along his knowledge of the production to his successors, Beck and Collins will pass along their knowledge to Hickman and Horger; so as A Christmas Carol continues into its fourth decade, nothing will be lost in translation.
“There are so many details Jeff and I just don’t know,” Hickman says. While she was involved with the touring production, the mainstage involves several more actors, as well as more complex design and technical elements. “Jeff and I are using this year as an opportunity to learn from Carl and Susie what those details are.”
For years, A Christmas Carol’s directing responsibilities have been split up among more than one director. And this year will be no different. Hickman will shadow Beck, who will direct the Scrooge, ghosts, and street scenes. Horger will shadow Collins, who will direct the party scenes and other various scenes. And local director Ablan Roblin, who has directed the Cratchit scenes in the past, will take on this role again.
“From a directing standpoint, it’s a very unique approach,” says Beck. “There is no one director who takes on the entire production.”
That’s because A Christmas Carol is simply too big of an undertaking for just one director. The transitions are complex, the technical effects are advanced, and the scenic elements are complicated—one director cannot be expected to successfully manage everything. Splitting up the responsibilities helps ensure the original intent of every part of the production, from the music to the characters to the concept itself, will remain intact.
For example, the party scenes, which Collins will direct, involve several people, all of whom are responsible for specific movements. But all of the little events within the scene aren’t necessarily in the script, Collins says. So a new director would have no idea how to incorporate everything by just looking at the script.
“You can’t just give someone a bunch of notes for this,” says Collins. “They have to be in the room.”
That’s why Hickman and Horger will be in the room this year. They will be taking notes and documenting every detail each scene requires. So when members of the Omaha community come to see the Playhouse’s Christmas Carol next year and for years to come, they will see the production Jones originally created back in the 1970s—a production intended to “recreate what you want Christmas to be in your imagination,” says Collins.
“I’m honored to be a part of this tradition,” says Hickman, “I’m honored that Carl and Susie trust us to be part of this tradition, and I’m also looking forward to having the Omaha community be a part of it.”