Family Affair: A Grandfather and Granddaughter Share the Stage in "A Christmas Carol"

Beth Fhaner
 | Dec 10, 2018
Hal Landon Jr. and Presley Coogan in A Christmas Carol

Hal Landon Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge and his grandaughter, Presley Coogan, as Tiny Tim in SCR's 39th annual production of A Christmas Carol.

Hal Landon, Jr. has been portraying Ebenezer Scrooge in SCR’s A Christmas Carol for nearly 40 years. As one of the longest-tenured Scrooges in the nation, Landon has been recognized by The New York Times for his performances and longevity. Performing in his iconic role in this year’s 39th production of A Christmas Carol marks a special time for Landon, as he gets to share the stage with his 9-year-old granddaughter, Presley Coogan, who stars as Tiny Tim (on the Green Team).

After taking acting classes at SCR’s Theatre Conservatory and going through the arduous audition process for A Christmas Carol, Coogan was elated to find out that she’d been cast in this year’s production of the holiday classic. In our Q&A with both grandfather and granddaughter, we get their thoughts on the beloved play that has become Orange County’s favorite holiday tradition.

For Hal—How has the role of Ebenezer Scrooge evolved for you over the years, and did you ever dream you’d be playing this character for nearly four decades?

Hal: The way in which I have played the role of Scrooge has evolved in a number of ways. Just the fact that I was so much younger when I first played the part and am now so much older has caused the characterization to evolve. My main hope is that the characterization has become more fully realized over the years. It is a complex and challenging role in terms of the types and degrees of emotions that Scrooge expresses in the course of the play. I know that wrestling with—and working on this challenge—has made me a better actor and, I hope, has enabled me to more fully realize the character with each passing year​. I knew SCR wanted to make A Christmas Carol an annual tradition, but I don’t think anyone was thinking about continuing for 40 years.

What do you enjoy the most about playing the character of Ebenezer Scrooge?

Hal: Perhaps the most enjoyable thing about being in A Christmas Carol is the reaction of the audience and not just when the play is being performed. Many people tell me they have been coming for as many as 20 years or more. Some of those people first brought their children and now those children are bringing their children. Knowing how much the show means to people is one of the things that bring me back every year.

What’s it like to be sharing the stage this year with your granddaughter, Presley, in the role of Tiny Tim?

Hal: Presley and I have always enjoyed acting together off stage. Whenever I babysit with her and her sister, Hadley, we do our own improvised versions of stories like Cinderella, Peter Pan and The Three Bears.  We’ve improvised so much that the stories bear only a slight resemblance to the originals. So, it will be a tremendous joy to share the stage with my granddaughter, as I did with my daughter, Caroline, some 21 years ago.

For Presley​—What’s your first memory of seeing your grandfather Hal onstage, and what’s it like to now be sharing the stage with him in A Christmas Carol?

Presley: I remember being so excited that I was going to get to see him as Scrooge. It’s amazing getting to share the stage with him! 

What do you enjoy the most about playing the character of Tiny Tim?

Presley: That I get to come in on Bob Cratchit’s shoulders. Then I’m the tallest person onstage! 

How does it help your acting studies by working with the adults in the cast, and who inspires you as an actor?

Presley: They are so nice and help me not to be nervous. My grandpa inspires me. 

What are you most looking forward to with this year’s production of A Christmas Carol?

Hal: Of course, I’m really looking forward to being in the play with Presley, but also to see what new things the cast and I can bring to the play.

Presley: I am very excited to perform in front of an audience. 

What is your favorite part about the holiday season?

Hal: Since A Christmas Carol has pretty much dominated the holiday season for me and my family for these many years, one of my favorite parts has become the Christmas Eve performances. There is a wonderfully heightened atmosphere in the theatre that makes those shows quite special.

Presley: Spending time with family is my favorite part. 

Learn more about A Christmas Carol and buy tickets.