My Walk-On Role at A.C.T.'s A Christmas Carol

By Julia Ludwig

Most years, A.C.T.'s annual gala auctions a behind-the-scenes experience and walk-on role for the production of A Christmas Carol. As a part of my special events fellowship at A.C.T. during the 2016–17 season, I had the chance to chaperone our younger walk-on role participants. It was a fun and engaging experience, and I won't soon forget taking a bow on the Geary stage with the entire Christmas Carol company.

Julia Ludwig dressed in her costume for the 2016 production
of A.C.T.'s A Christmas Carol. Photo courtesy Julia Ludwig.
One of my favorite parts of the process was trying on costumes at A.C.T.'s costume shop. With more than 20,000 costumes, there are rows of colorful clothing and accessories from every era you can imagine—it's a dream closet. Once the costume team took my measurements, they picked out some options for me to try on. I loved the shoes I got to wear.

On the day of the performance, I met the two children I would be walking on with at the stage door an hour before the show. We were told that we'd be crossing the stage a few times during the town scenes and then we'd be included in an ensemble number toward the end of the show. Before getting into costume, we warmed up for the performance by playing some improvisation games and practicing vocal exercises with the other young actors. 

After warm-ups, stage manager Karen Szpaller and her team walked us through our "track" (theater lingo for stage blocking). Even though I'm a seasoned performer, I was feeling a little nervous! Karen encouraged us to get into character by coming up with backstories for our performance—this helped me get into the right headspace.

The finale of A.C.T.'s 2016 production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Kevin Berne.
Since we weren't onstage until the last scene of the show, we waited to get into our costumes until the first act had ended. With the help of A.C.T.'s costume dressers, we were dressed up in Victorian garments and ready to be a part of Carol's winter wonderland. At just the right moment, Karen called us to our places and we walked into the spotlight. Even though we had rehearsed, nothing can prepare you for the energy and excitement you feel from the audience as you step into the light.

During this scene, we shook hands with the villagers and sung the joyous finale song with the entire cast. The show ends triumphantly when Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, everyone" and then snow falls from the sky. In this moment, the magic of theater takes over. After this, the curtain comes down, and the cast scurries offstage to their places for curtain bows. As walk-ons, we were the first to take our bow, so we stood directly behind the curtain and waited for a beat. When the velvet curtain flew up, the lights were too bright for us to see a single face, but we could feel the love of the roaring audience. The Geary Theater is a magnificent space and I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to grace its historic stage.

Julia Ludwig was A.C.T.'s 2016–17 Special Events Fellow. She is currently at Marin Theatre Company as its Development Associate.

A Christmas Carol runs through December 24 at The Geary Theater. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.

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