by Julia Veik
From “The Nutcracker” to “A Christmas Carol,” sophomore Emma Johnson has been involved in theater for a large part of her life. Johnson is a cast member in the traveling show “A Christmas Carol,” which will travel along the general area of the East Coast. The first show of the tour was on Nov. 24 in Columbus, Ohio, and the last show will be on Dec. 23 in Melbourne, Fla. Johnson stars as one of Tiny Tim’s sisters Belinda Cratchit, Scrooge’s sister Fan and one of the street children.
Though she is acting as multiple characters, her favorite is the street child.
“My favorite scene in the entire show is the counting house, that’s where Scrooge works, and we come in, and we’re singing Christmas carols, and he tries to hit us with a yardstick and we’re all screaming and it’s complete chaos, but organized chaos and that’s a lot of fun,” Johnson said.
Johnson started out in ballet at the age of 3 and in her time participating in ballet she performed in “The Nutcracker” for six years, from kindergarten until fifth grade. In fifth grade, a friend told her about an audition for a musical at a local theater and commented that she could sing something as simple as “Happy Birthday.”
“So I went and I sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and my first show was ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at the Omaha Community Playhouse,” Johnson said.
Though she did ballet for 11 years, she prefers acting. “I am not the best dancer, I mean, I pick up choreography pretty quickly but dance is like you have to do it this way or it’s considered wrong,” Johnson said. In acting, she is able to become the character, consider what that character would do or how the character would react in a given situation and adapt the acting to fit that.
Johnson has not limited herself to traveling theater, she took part in the Marian productions of “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Gone the Rainbow, Return the Dove” and “Hello, Dolly!.” In Marian’s October production of “Hello, Dolly!,” she played Minnie Fay and took part in memorable songs such as “Elegance” and “Motherhood March.”
That same month Johnson got an email asking if she wanted to tour again with “A Christmas Carol.” She didn’t go through the audition process but was called on because they only had two kids audition for three roles, and they knew her from her previous years taking part in the touring show in 2014 and 2015 as well as the main stage version of the show in 2013. She had to get permission from her parents and Principal Mrs. Susie Sullivan to go on the tour, and now that she is on tour, she has to keep up with homework from teachers.
“Keeping up with school work is a little difficult, but I have been able to do it so far. I try to keep up with what is happening in class, and I make sure to do all of the homework, even if it’s optional, outside of class. I have my teachers send my chaperoned test via email. Then I take them on the bus, and we send them back to my teachers to be graded,” Johnson said
Johnson has missed several weeks of school to be a part of the cast of “A Christmas Carol,” partially due to rehearsals colliding with the school day and partially due to her being on tour outside of Omaha. “A Christmas Carol” rehearsed for two weeks, during which they learned the whole show. Johnson was needed several days of the week for multiple hours at a time to rehearse.
“Rehearsals are generally 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., so a full work day, but I’m not called the entire time. The first day I was called from 9 to 6 with a one hour lunch break in the middle. For the last five or six days, I was called maybe 9 to 11 and then I got three hours off to run back to school to get some homework and get things. Then I’d go back from 2 to 4,” Johnson said.
In her previous years touring, Johnson celebrated landmark birthdays. This year she will be turning 16 while still on tour.
“My birthday lands right in the middle of it. I turn 16 on Dec. 14. I’ve had a couple milestone birthdays on tour. The first year I toured was when I was in 7th grade, I turned 13 in Somerville, New Jersey. The second year I toured, I turned 14 in Red Bank, New Jersey. This year I’m turning 16 in St. Louis,” Johnson said.
The experience is an overall pleasant opportunity for Johnson because of the chance she has to bond with her fellow cast members. Johnson particularly enjoys the interactions she can have with the cast. With smaller theaters she interacts with a compact group of people that she is constantly on stage with and considers herself friends with everyone in the cast. In a larger group the size of the cast of “A Christmas Carol,” everyone is like giant family.
“In the show I’m currently doing, ‘A Christmas Carol,’ we live with each other for six weeks… and we are with each other almost 24/7 spending upwards of eight to 10 hours on a bus every day. You’re in a giant metal tube with these people, so everyone bonds with each other,” Johnson said.
These bonds with fellow cast members help her whenever homesickness strikes.
“It has been a little difficult to be away from family, but I know that if I ever get homesick I have a lovely cast to be my family for the next month,” Johnson said.