From Kids Camp to the Ford’s Theatre Stage: Meet 2023 A Christmas Carol Young Company Members
Get to know some of our young company!
A Christmas Carol is always a joyous occasion here at Ford’s Theatre. Our young company is just one reason! In this month’s blog, we take you behind the scenes to rehearsals with some of the brightest young stars to hit the Ford‘s Theatre stage.
This year, the Young Company experienced what Artistic Programming Manager and A Christmas Carol Associate Director Erika Scott and Company Manager Martita Slayden-Robinson called “Kids Camp” – a focused introduction to everything A Christmas Carol. During Kids Camp, they got a leg up on the dialects, choreography and staging together before rehearsals with the adults began.
“It was definitely different from a full rehearsal with adults,” said Riglee Bryson of Clifton, Virginia, who plays Belinda Cratchit. “It was fun and laid back. Now with the adults, it’s more professional, but I like that! …But Kids Camp was fun and a great way to start the season! I’m glad we did it.”
According to Taylor Esguerra of Sterling, Virginia, who plays Martha Cratchit, that the kids camp “was helpful and gave us a good introduction on how rehearsals might work.”
Nicolas Cabrera of Washington, D.C., who plays Turkey Boy, agreed. “I think it was fun and helped me at least feel prepared,” he said.
It was also the first chance to start getting to know their fellow young company members.
“Kids Camp was so much fun and something to look forward to before rehearsals started,” said Adrianna Weir of Stafford, Virginia, who plays Fan and Want. “Getting to meet the rest of the kids was the best part.”
“It was a great way to bond with the other kids in the cast!” said Ainsley Zauel, of Fairfax Station, Virginia, who plays Martha Cratchit. “It was so fun to practice our dialects and learn the dances together!”
Once rehearsals began, the young actors were assigned their teams, either Red or Green and immersed in a three-week process along with the adult company. During the rehearsal process, one team will quickly review a scene while the other watches, then move swiftly to switch teams so the other young cast has a chance to walk through the same sequence.
The kids and any newcomers to the cast are added in. Guided in the room with support from Erika, Associate Director Craig Horness and Director José Carrasquillo, it’s a joy to get to learn the ropes and watch the professional adults. Plus, the chance to simply have fun is a huge plus for the kids.
“It’s exciting that I get to be in one of the biggest shows in D.C. at one of the most unique places,” says Harrison Morford of Aldie, Virginia, who plays Tiny Tim. “It’s really fun working with the adult actors because they are so good and I am learning a lot. I also really like riding on the sleigh because I wasn’t able to do sled riding last year because it didn’t snow.”
One aspect of this rehearsal process’ patient yet challenging environment: the kids can honestly say “nope” when asked “Do you know where you’re going next?” and get the answers, while still having the empowerment to dance themselves and work hard.
“I have learned to be patient and true to my character, really becoming my character. Watching the adults in their character makes me want to be more my character,” Riglee said. “It really is an honor to perform at Ford’s and with these amazing actors and management. I can already tell they will be my friends and supporters forever!”
It’s also exciting to learn the traditions that come with A Christmas Carol. Some moments that multiple kids noted include the Cratchit scenes, learning how to use British accents and more. The Fezziwig dance is one highlight, where during rehearsals, Dance Captain and actor Justine “Icy” Moral helped break down the step sequences and kept the kids and adults on the same page.
“I like learning the Fezziwig dance (even though it’s complicated and tiring)!” said Kieran Tyan of Maryland, who plays Peter Cratchit. “I also like setting the Cratchit table, the town scenes and pulling the sled.”
William Morford of Aldie, Virginia, who plays Turkey Boy, Boy Scrooge and Ignorance, said he thought it’d be hard to remember the whole dance because it’s really long and tricky. “But the directors were really kind and good at splitting it up to teach it,” he said. “After practicing, I thought it was really fun and thrilling.”
A big joy of the young company is giving an outlet for a new generation of performers in D.C.: some who’ve performed professionally before, some who are making their debuts. It’s Kieran’s first year in any production, and he says he’s always loved to act. “I’m amazed that I got in and excited to learn more and bond with the other kid and adult actors,” he said.
The young company this year also has two sets of siblings: Elmer and Harlan Killebrew, and William and Harrison Morford. Harrison and Harlan both play Tiny Tim.
“I was really excited to make new friends and it was fun watching last year’s performance the first day of Kids Camp. I quickly became friends with Harlan, the other Tiny Tim,” Harrison said. “Harlan and I had a lot of time to get to know each other during the Kids Camp.”
For the Morfords, whose mimi Joyce Appleman has participated in the Ford’s Oratory program and was one of the teachers honored in this year’s Ford’s Annual Gala, it’s a family affair. “It’s neat we both get to do something at Ford’s,” William said.
As they near performances, the reality that performers from a young age get to be on the Ford’s stage sinks in. There is much excitement in being part of this annual D.C. tradition at our historic theatre.
“It is so exciting to be a part of a special show that is meaningful to audiences at Christmas time. I love being a part of people’s Christmas traditions and celebrations,” Ainsley said. “It is also amazing to be performing at a historic theater – it amazes me to think of all the history here! It is really special to be a small part of an amazing show that provides joy to others. I am so grateful for this opportunity!”
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Michael Wilson and directed by Michael Baron, runs November 17-December 31, 2023. Get tickets here.
Daniella Ignacio is the Communications Manager at Ford’s Theatre.