Essential Workers Highlight

Atlanta's Essential Workers and the Christmas Spirit in "A Christmas Carol: The Live Radio Play"

In a chapter of Charles Dickens’ classic novel A Christmas Carol, the Ghost of Christmas Present shows Ebenezer Scrooge a glimpse into the lives of coal workers who toil the earth to provide fuel for Victorian-era Christmas parties. 

Instead of showing Scrooge the difficult and risky conditions under which coal worker’s work (many die early because of over-exposure to coal dust), the Ghost of Christmas Present takes Scrooge to see a miner family celebrating around a glowing fire, singing Christmas songs—a reminder that even those in the most difficult situations find joy, and that gratitude is almost always a choice.

This year’s Christmas Carol has pivoted to respond to the coronavirus pandemic in various ways: it’s a drive-in theatre experience to be enjoyed from your car, the actors are in private shipping containers, the story is delivered as a radio play (all elements adapted to meet the safety recommendations outlined by the CDC). 

But perhaps none of the adaptations captures the essence of Christmas more than the spotlight on Atlanta’s essential workers during the scene of Christmas Present. Leora Morris and Ben Coleman, the creative team behind this production, updated the traditional coal miners scene into a relevant and touching moment that honors the contributions of people who have provided valuable services with our health, safety, and wellbeing in mind. 

From healthcare workers, teachers, and firefighters to restaurant owners, utility workers, and the street department, the Alliance’s Community Engagement team worked with United Way of Greater Atlanta to interview over a dozen essential workers across various sectors. 

Every night throughout the run of the show, a different essential worker will share their story and holiday traditions with Scrooge and audiences.

One of these essential workers, LaGuana Ezzard, the Director of Partnerships and Programming at Harper Archer Elementary, is helping to provide social awareness and cultural experiences for students despite the challenges of an online classroom. 

“One of the hardest parts of this transition in a low income area is actually seeing the circumstances that many students are living in,” says Ezzard. She explains how understanding these circumstances has allowed her and her colleagues to teach with more humility and compassion during this difficult year.

Despite the challenges the pandemic has presented, Ezzard says she remains thankful for her family and is embracing her first experience as a “homebody” far away from her usually vibrant social life. The empty nester also sees one other silver lining: her children have come home! 
Yolanda Jackson, another essential worker featured during the production, has been bagging meals and spending hours a day going into apartments and facilities to deliver food during the pandemic. Jackson, a cafeteria manager with Atlanta public schools, details the tremendous amount of time and work required to both prepare and deliver food to kids. She reflects that her greatest joy is to improve the lives of kids.

This holiday season, Jackson is particularly grateful that she has a roof over her own head. “I am thankful to have a home,” she says. “The pandemic taught me how to save and how to have patience.” 

The joy of connecting with family and finding gratitude in being at home united many of the essential workers' experiences. Their stories are a reminder that now, more than ever, it is important to focus on our loved ones and seize moments of happiness. 

“Take the time to be in the moment and breathe,” advises Garnetta Penn, the Choir Director at Mays High School. And the Ghost of Christmas Present says “hear, hear.” 

In addition to the United Way of Greater Atlanta, the Alliance Theatre would like to thank our community partners that participated in this project: Northside Hospital, The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the City of Fairburn, Community Farmers Markets (CFM), YMCA of Metro Atlanta, and WeLoveBuHi.

Dec. 4: Alison Mills, Foreign Language Teacher, St. Martin's Episcopal School
Dec. 6: Quentin Hutchins, Transportation Specialist, Atlanta Public Transit
Dec. 8: LaJuana Ezzard, Master Teacher Leader, Harper-Archer Elementary School
Dec. 9: Henrietta Essel RN, BSN, Manager/Caregiver; Serenity Empire Personal Care
Dec. 10: Cynthia Tucker, Medical Assistant, Southside Medical Center
Dec. 11: Yolanda Jackson, Cafeteria Manager, Atlanta Public Schools
Dec. 15: Stephanie Lenzy, Director of Early Learning Education, YMCA of Metro Atlanta
Dec. 16: Katie Kriner, Farmer's Market Manager, Community Farmers Market
Dec. 17: Captain Miguel Ribot, Fire Department, City of Fairburn
Dec. 18: CPT Ryan Hepworth, Ambulatory Clinical Informatics Coordinator, Northside Hospital 
Dec. 19: Elizabeth Curry, Street Department, City of Fairburn
Dec. 20: Carlton Hamm, Utilities Watershed, City of Atlanta  
Dec. 21: Ching Hsia, Owner of Yen Jing Chinese Restaurant
Dec. 22: Garnetta Penn, Choral Director, Benjamin E. Mays High School
Dec. 23: Carolyn Booker, Chief Nursing Officer, Northside Hospital Forsyth


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