Cast & Crew
Annie Christmas: Emily Chateau
Ekrom Edgerton / Caleb Cunningham / Ring Announcer: Marques Brown
Tall Barney: Michael Khanlarian
Darlin’ Calamine: Lauren Rachel
Jabez Mulligan: Tim Greer
Musician: Steven Gary
Sound Effects: Skip Howard
Sound Effects: Robert Arnold
Producer: John Hiltonsmith
Adaptation: Kell Christie
Director: Kell Christie
Announcer: Tom Badgett
Artist: Erica McCarrens
In American tall tales, there’s a fair amount of information about the boys. Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Mike Fink, John Henry — all these guys have stories with outlandish details. But when I was working on a script for tall tales to tour to public schools, I couldn’t really come up with many women. This presented a problem, since I had to write roles for two actresses, and Sluefoot Sue wasn’t enough to go around.
I was doing research for this character back in 2003, and in the intervening years I’ve found much more information. Some accounts say she was black, and a former slave. Some say she was white, and had a mustache. It seems to me, in the limited amount of reading I’ve done since then, that the white Annie Christmas was the strongest person around, but died of unrequited love. The black Annie Christmas, on the other hand, seems to be a charitable giantess with a husband and 12 equally giant sons and daughters. Both Annies seem big and awesome.
However, when I was writing the script — again, originally to be toured to schools — I was writing for a specific actress: the gorgeous Cherie Evans. She’s 5’8″, so she’s tall, but not exactly a giantess. She’s runway model slender, and hilarious. So the Annie Christmas I wrote was an Annie that Cherie could embody.
The actress playing Annie on the recording is also awesome, but we only hear her expressive voice. And that, truly, is what’s liberating about audio theater — the audience decides what everyone looks like. So, for the audio script, I purposefully left physical descriptions of Annie fairly vague. Her race isn’t mentioned, so she can be whatever each individual listener wants her to be. And that’s kind of the point of tall tales, anyway. We invent them to embody our strength and courage. And I wanted to add that Annie was kind. Strong and kind — every hero should be that way.
A segment about Chatterbox from WKNO-TV’s “Southern Routes,” filmed during the recording of Annie Christmas. Video by Larry Dunn.