Actor's Life: Rayanne Gonzales on Charles Dickens's Call for Kindness

This holiday season, Ford’s Theatre presents A Christmas Carol from November 15 to December 30, 2018. If you are fortunate to have seen this joyful production at Ford’s Theatre before, you’ll recognize much of our cast, including our Ghost of Christmas Present, Rayanne Gonzales. We spoke with Rayanne this summer about what she most looks forward to about performing one of Charles Dickens’s most iconic characters during the holiday season here in Washington, D.C.

For many in the region, coming to A Christmas Carol is an annual tradition. Why do you think the story is so timeless?

We can all use a reminder of the power of redemption and forgiveness. A Christmas Carol is a window into one man’s journey—a man who is actually fortunate enough to make things right before it’s too late. I think we’d all rather hide than have all our flaws laid bare for the world to see. But, Dickens’s story reminds us of the swiftness of life and our call to be kind to one another.

Image shows actors Craig Wallace and Rayanne Gonzales in their roles of Scrooge and Ghost of Christmas Present, respectively. Wallace is wearing a long red silk robe and long white nightgown. Gonzales is wearing a green velvet dress with long, bell-shaped sleeves, surrounded by white fur. on her head is a corwn of Ivy and candles, in the Scandinavian St. Lucia tradition.
Gonzales, seen here with Craig Wallace (Scrooge), returns to the Ford's production in the play's 175th anniversary year. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST ENCOUNTER THE STORY OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL?

I don’t recall reading it as a child, but I knew of it. My daughter, of her own doing, is very well versed in the book and movies, animated and live action! One of the highlights of her school year was reading it aloud to her teacher and classmates, with a spot-on English accent, if I do say so myself!

Do you have a favorite film or stage memory of this Christmas story?

The 2009 Disney film directed by Robert Zemeckis is particularly vivid in color and detail. I see different details every time, and Jim Carrey as Scrooge is great!

What are you most looking forward to about returning to play the Ghost of Christmas Present?

I am most looking forward to finding new ways to embody the Ghost of Christmas Present in spirit. There is much at stake for Scrooge, and Christmas Present has to convey an energy and urgency that hopefully propels him to take action for the sake of his soul. As an actor, the opportunity to revisit a character is a welcome chance to tell the story from a different angle or perspective missed the first go around!

How does performing a role on stage at Ford’s Theatre add to the experience of the show?

Ford’s Theatre is a significant landmark in our nation’s history, making it a draw for so many people around the world. I am humbled to stand on the stage and tell a story set back in time with its period costumes and settings yet evokes universal and still relevant themes.

Rayanne Gonzales, in character as early-1900s activist Emma Goldman, stands on a tall staircase wearing a blouse and long skirt from the period. Her fist raised in protest.
Rayanne Gonzales appeared at Ford's during the spring of 2017 as Emma Goldman in "Ragtime," directed by Peter Flynn. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

You’ve worked in D.C. for several years now. What made you choose D.C. as your theatrical home as opposed to New York or other places in the country?

The D.C. area, specifically Virginia, is where my family resides and where I’m raising my daughter presently. Theatre work takes you lots of places, and I’ve been fortunate to perform nationally, internationally as well as here at “home.” As long as a train, plane, bus or car can get me there, off to work I go!

What else would you like to share about the play, performing at Ford’s Theatre or this particular role?

A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theatre should be a bucket list experience for everyone! The energy of live theatre is unmatched in its immediacy and emotional impact. It is my Christmas wish, if you will, that families, friends and all our connections in between find a glimpse of hope in our shared humanity watching this production.

Come see Rayanne and the full A Christmas Carol cast on stage from November 15 to December 30, 2018.

A version of this story appears in the playbill for "Born Yesterday" at Ford's Theatre.

Lauren Beyea is Associate Director of Communications and Marketing at Ford's Theatre. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenBeyea.