Chip Sherman inhabits the role of Spirit 1. It’s a wonderfully modern take on a character so many people know and love. They are also the show’s choreographer. In this interview, the talented artist reflects on bringing this year’s imagining of the timeless tale to the stage and how Scrooge’s journey of self-reflection parallels our own experience, now more than ever.
You played Spirit 1 in the 2020 radio version of the play. How was that experience different from this year’s?
I think the most obvious and rewarding difference between this year and last year is the fact that we’ll be back to the theatre in person.
Being in a recording booth with multiple faceless voices in your ear, only speaking your lines, is not my preferred way to tell this story. While it was a great experience and I do love voice over work, it just doesn’t compare to the majesty that in-person live theatre holds. That’s why I’m so honored and thrilled that this story will be how we welcome our ACT extended family back into the theatre.
Over this time away, ACT staff, board and Core Company have started some much-needed restructuring, as well as policies and procedures updating — how we work and share space with each other. The journey of self-reflection, changing perspectives and empathy we’ve all (hopefully, you too) gone on over our time at home, beautifully parallels the journey Scrooge goes on to find their joy and humanity again in A Christmas Carol.
You and Julie Beckman, the director, have worked hard on reshaping the part this year. What can you tell us about that process and the work you’ve done together? Tell us how you’re approaching the character of Spirit #1 in this year’s production.
My meetings to work on Spirit 1 and Carol with Julie this year have been nothing short of inspired. Julie and I have formed a much closer working relationship because I get the honor of also choreographing Carol this year and because of what we want to do with the choreography. My favorite part about working with Julie to reignite the contemporary relevance of this play is our appreciation and respect for the source material. This was our impetuous and sole reason for our reimagining Spirit 1. In Dickens’ original, Spirit 1, is akin to a bright spark of hope or an inspiring beacon of light. Playing within the Spirit’s original roots has made for a much more joyous and lively way of leading Ebenezer through nostalgia.
From a brand-new look to the first time a non-binary actor has stepped into the role and everything in between, I can’t wait to introduce you all to my Ghost of Christmas Past.
What makes you most excited about this year’s production?
Honestly and humbly, I’d have to say the perspectives Julie and I bring to the room!
How are we as a contemporary theatre — our priority is to reflect and comment on the happenings of present life — creating a show with such dated ingredients? It was equally important to Julie and me when we signed on to this year’s production that, while we can’t make it as beautifully and contemporarily period as Hamilton, we can push the (threaded) needle in that direction. Although it is very important to us to keep the tradition of telling this story, it was even more important to us to figure out a way to slowly bring Scrooge into the modern day — effectively bringing us and what we’ve collectively gone through in our age closer to an age-old story.
Theatre is best when it surprises you — when it doesn’t give too much away. This is manifested in the way we tell this story through music, dance, and sometimes text. This year’s Carol in many ways will hold onto the traditions of Carols of ole’ but will also be peppered with contemporary ideas that will renew the life of the play and make the telling of this story more relevant to the reality we live in today. Scrooge won’t be properly in the 21st century this year, but the slight updates we’ve made will make 21st century heartstrings easier to tug.
I want to add one disclaimer: Please do not come with any preconceived notions of what updating this story looks like, but rather come with an open heart ready to be thrilled and moved by live in-person theatre again. As Fred says to Uncle Scrooge. “I have always thought of Christmas as a good time… It is the only time I know of in the long calendar of the year when men and women seem by consent to open their shut-up hearts freely…”
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Welcome home! It’s so great to have you with us again in person. See you in the lobby!
Tell us a bit about you and your other projects. What gets you jazzed up about the work you do?
Outside of my work at ACT, I am an active participant in the nightlife and kiki ballroom scenes in Seattle and the PNW at large. See my fiancée and I in our heavily choreographed, beautifully painted, and immensely joyous drag duo LüChi at local spaces like Supernova and The Comeback. Or kiki with the kiki ballroom house I helped found, The Royal House of Noir, at a local ball or community event that centers and supports Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC). All and all the reason I am here and can take up the space I do, is because of the people who paved the way before me. In turn, this is what wakes me up in the morning and inspires me to continue to do the work I do; future generations. The battles I overcome and the heights I reach will only make it that much easier for the people of the future who look like me to make their dreams come true.
Chip Sherman (they/them) is a member of the Core Company, ACT’s artistic residency. They have appeared on ACT’s stage in a variety of roles including Alex in Alex and Aris (2017) and Romeo and Juliet (2019), as well as in A Christmas Carol as Middle Scrooge in 2017 and Spirit 1 in last year’s audio production. Catch up with Chip on Instagram at @chi.sherman and @lifewithluchi.