Hal Landon Jr. as Ebenezer Scrooge with his daughter Kate.
Kate (Landon) Coogan is one of Hal Landon Jr.’s daughters who grew up while her dad portrayed the beloved, curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge in South Coast Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol. While her dad prepares to bid farewell to the role after 40 years, she shares her memories of growing up as a ‘kid of Scrooge.’
Like many other Southern Californians, SCR’s production of A Christmas Carol is part of our family’s Christmas traditions. The holiday season is busy with many parents working long hours, right up until Christmas Eve, and my dad is no exception.
My family’s Christmas Carol traditions are slightly unique in that my Dad is Ebenezer Scrooge—Hal Landon Jr.—also known as Grandpa Lanny by my children. It truly has been a family affair over the years, with two of my cousins, my sister and my daughter all auditioning, being cast and being a part of the production. Not only have my family members been in the show, but everyone in the production is family. I was raised in and by the people of SCR and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Christmas season is one of his busiest times of the year and it has been for my whole life. Despite Dad working late into the night, we still held the same Christmas traditions as most families; picking out a tree, for example, was always a highlight when I was a kid, but Dad was often off to work by the time we started decorating it. Christmastime with my dad meant that I would lie in bed at night, waiting to hear him come through the door a little after 10 p.m.; I waited to hear him lock the door and unplug the Christmas tree lights. Finally, all was calm and I would drift off to sleep.
My earliest memories of seeing A Christmas Carol include me hiding my head in my mom’s shoulder when I knew the Ghost of Jacob Marley was about to burst through the door; showing off my Christmas Eve dress and shoes to JD [director John-David Keller]; presenting Scrooge with roses at curtain call; racing down the hall backstage into my dad’s arms and begging him to let me watch him take off his “old man” makeup.
Was it hard having my dad gone almost every night through the month of December? Well, it’s all I’ve ever known. And it’s all my parents’ marriage has ever known. A mere two months after they tied the knot, my dad began rehearsals for the very first production of A Christmas Carol. He will be the first to tell you that there is no way he could have sustained 40 seasons without the unwavering support of his wife, my mom. She set an example of love, patience and grace during this busy season and we all just try to follow suit.
The past two seasons have been extremely special: my daughter, Presley, auditioned for and played Tiny Tim last year (growing three inches) and, this year, she is playing Belinda Cratchit. Somehow, the role of daughter and mom has helped me see A Christmas Carol’s impact in a new light: seeing more and more red scarves every year, learning about other families’ traditions surrounding A Christmas Carol, hearing people recite lines from the show as they walk away from the theatre and exclamations about the “hat trick.” I am overwhelmed with extreme pride and thankfulness.
I am so proud, in fact, that I got a portion of Scrooge’s final toast—“Ring out wild bells”—tattooed on my arm.