I Hate to Admit It, but I Miss Tiny Tim

by David J. McGraw
Bob Crachit and his son, Tiny Tim from Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol
Bob Crachit and his son, Tiny Tim from Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol
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Like counting the rings of a tree trunk, you can often determine an SM’s age by asking how many Christmas Carols/Nutcrackers they have managed. Unlike other theatrical and dance classics, these shows are cash cows with a very limited lifespan, so managing these holiday chestnuts usually means packed schedules with lots of overtime. I remember feeling a sense of comradery with the old “time to make the donuts” commercials every time Marley or a toy soldier hit the stage.

I also remember relief when I could pass the Christmas Carol archives to another member of my SM team. But now, after many years away from wassailing in 10 a.m. matinees, I find I miss that pipsqueak Timothy and all the trimmings. A friend invited me to the opening of her A Christmas Carol and I was surprised how much the holiday ghost story still got to me and I actually felt I had entered the holiday season with that performance.

Another theatrical tradition that still puts me in a festive mood more than any window display or 24/7 holiday music station is the backstage Secret Santa. Seeing another friend prepare for this annual tradition reminded me of all the good will that artists have for their ‘production families.’ There is an energy and a youthfulness that overtakes the entire company when we step away from the daily grind to remember the season.

To all stage managers currently working long, long hours bringing these holiday classics to life, I thank you. While it may not be the most innovative show of the year, it very well might be the most important show to many in the audience. And when you grow weary of clock chimes and graveyard redemptions, take a break and come back fresh.

To all the stage managers who use their powers of organization to orchestrate Secret Santas and other holiday traditions for your company, I salute you. You don’t have time for this added responsibility, but you do it anyway. The performing arts are more than a career, they are our way of life and you are strengthening our community. 

Now let’s make sure everyone turns off their cell phones at the end of intermission….