Bringing the Ghost of Christmas Past into the Present

By Mads Leigh-Faire

From the grid of The Geary descends a mirage in white—the Ghost of Christmas Past. Perched on a trapeze swing, this spirit almost appears to glow. What the audience in The Geary won't know is that, like the varying adaptations of Dickens's classic novella, the costume for this ghost continues to evolve for a new generation.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Marisa Duchowny) in A.C.T.'s 2010 production of A Christmas Carol.

When A.C.T. mounted this adaptation in 2005, designing the costume for the Ghost of Christmas Past posed an unusual challenge. In the original book, says A.C.T. Costume Director Jesse Amoroso, the Ghost is described in an ethereal but contradictory way: old and young, worn-down and sprightly. The Ghost is depicted as androgynous, says Amoroso, and like a candle in constant flux. Their garb is described as wintry and yet light.

Costume Designer Beaver Bauer's vision for the character featured a Ghost in white and pale gray, wrapped in soft spring vines adorned with fresh flower bulbs. Atop their head sat a tall crown made of lights, flickering like candles. The crown was eye-catching, but there was one problem: the headgear's hardware, wiring, and battery packs added up to a lot of extra weight.

Original sketch of the costume for Ghost of Christmas Past by Costume Designer Beaver Bauer.

When the costume started to show wear and tear, Amoroso's team took the opportunity to re-examine the crown's design. Bringing in Bauer to offer suggestions, A.C.T.'s costume shop crew reimagined the crown, removing the heavy lights to create a wig adorned with silver tinsel, giving the costume a shimmering appearance. When you sit in The Geary this month, keep an eye in the sky for the Ghost of Christmas Past, the gentle spirit who holds a light to Scrooge’s behavior and forces him to reflect.

Mads Leigh-Faire is currently A.C.T.'s Special Events Fellow for 2018–19. They also blog with Queeries Blog and perform in the Bay Area as drag thing Holden Wood.

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