For 25 years, families have been coming to Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park to watch Ebeneezer Scrooge discover the true meaning of Christmas.
For nearly two decades, other families have taken a night off from carols and cookie-making to enjoy a fairytale and each other’s company at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati’s yearly musicals.
And for 11 years, people have visited the Taft Museum of Art to see pieces of holidays past in its Antique Christmas, an exhibit built on the collections of local residents.
Arts are at the heart of holiday traditions in Cincinnati. During a Nov. 19 luncheon, the people behind these three beloved events shared with ArtsWave stories that demonstrate how arts can deepen roots in our community.
EVERYONE LOVES SCROOGE
Michael Haney, associate artist at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park has been involved with Playhouse’s production of “A Christmas Carol” since it began 25 years ago, playing Bob Cratchit for the first two years and then directing the show for the last 23. He returns to the director’s seat for the 2015 production.
“I always said I would only do the show if I still looked forward to it,” Haney said. “And I do look forward to it every year. I’ve seen that show 1,000 times, and it intrigues me every time.”
More than 200 children have been in the production over the years, and some of them are now coming back to watch with their own kids. Every year, about 30 actors are in the show and most of those are Cincinnati residents.
“Every actor that’s ever been in it has left a little bit of himself in the show,” Haney said.
It’s common to see many generations of a family at “A Christmas Carol,” and the same is true at the annual holiday musical at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati.This year, the musical is "Cinderella."
Ensemble started the musical tradition 19 years, when its staff decided to come up with a production families could attend during the holidays – but wasn’t the usual seasonal fare. The goal was “a nondenominational, multigenerational musical without the word holiday in the title,” said Artistic Producing Director D. Lynn Meyers said, and fairytale musicals fit the bill because they are stories that last.
“They have a great heart and a great integrity to them,” Meyers said.
People respond to that heart. At last year’s production, Meyers said a family that had been coming since the beginning arrived at the show with four generations in tow.
“That’s the great Christmas gift of what we do,” Meyers said.
The holiday musicals also are part of Ensemble’s Fairy Godmother program, which gives tickets to children who might not otherwise see a play. The program, which served 12 kids its first year, now serves 1,200. Meyer said last year a teacher, escorting children with the program, shared that she saw her first play ever thanks to Ensemble’s Fairy Godmother.
Antique Christmas at Taft Museum of Art was born 11 years ago when staff members discovered a local resident’s collection of holiday decorations and other items. The exhibit, which continues to be culled from private collections, has repeated only two items since it started.
While the display is pretty and it’s intriguing to see how past generations celebrated, the real power of the exhibit lies in its ability to get families talking and sharing stories, said Taft CEO and Executive Director Deborah Emont Scott.
ALL THE HOLIDAY EVENTS
To keep track of all the arts opportunities through the holiday season, check out ArtsWave’s CincyArtsGuide.com.
CincyArtsGuide always has a complete calendar of events from the vibrant arts community here, but for the holiday season, we’ve also created three specific calendars – Classic Christmas, Contemporary Christmas and Winter Wonderland – to help you find events and prioritize your schedule.