Props Designer Arika Schockmel on uncommon props for CHRISTMAS WITH MISFITS

Arika Schockmel previously designed makeup for Plan-B’s 2012 revival of HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH.

Christmas Truth #1: From 2002 to 2009, I was one of those people who forced Christmas upon other people.


Let me explain: in 2002 my father was diagnosed with cancer. It was swift and aggressive, and deep down we knew it was to be his last Christmas with us. So I baked and cooked with gusto. I decorated voraciously and with wild abandon. We had drinks and Christmas crackers and “Snapdragon” and “The Minister’s Cat” and music and by Jove, it worked! His last Christmas was as good as we could make a last Christmas. And working so had made the empty/full of fear pit inside me feel less empty and fearful.

So the following Christmas the stakes were higher, weren’t they? I not only had to create a Christmas that somehow softened my father’s absence, I had to create Christmas or CHRISTMAS WOULD NOT HAPPEN. So began a seven=year obsession that involved up to seen individual decorated trees, a massive collection of asbestos-infested vintage Christmas lights, a sprawling, multi-cultural Nativity that included Santa, Buddha, and Shiva, and a creepy amount of 1940’s Gurly candles.

Christmas Truth #2: Children can make Christmas magic.

More to the point, they can make YOU see the magic of Christmas. In November 2010 my daughter was born. Through the post-partem, sleep-deprived haze I recall Christmas somehow occurred with no effort on my part. There was possibly one tree (I REALLY wasn’t sleeping much back then), but the Gurly candles sat undisturbed in 2009’s used wrapping paper – frozen smiles and wide eyes, waxy and unblinking – and Christmas still came and went. Every Christmas since has been more exciting for her, and therefore, me. It’s no longer such hard work. It’s still work-ish – parenthood is work and design is work and work is work so yes – there’s still WORK, but I don’t have to birth a completely formed, miracle-filled Christmas via my Zeus-like forehead. It’s no longer forced. Christmas has allowed me to see the absolute joy in her little heart. I find such happiness in hearing her high pitched voice sing/yell holiday songs while we decorate gingerbread houses (because it’s FUN!) and the tree (okay four trees – but two are really quite small and one she did almost by herself ) and put up a smaller version of the nativity, because . . .


Christmas Truth #3: I robbed my OWN Nativity and my DAUGHTER to make the Baby Jesus Board.

My years of Obsessive Christmas Crap Collecting probably make me a natural choice for Props Design for CHRISTMAS WITH MISFITS. I admit, I already owned (or “borrowed” from my child) approximately 150+ Jesuses – or “Hey! That could be a Jesus!” items – for a certain prop.

I love assemblage, and Christmas décor is really just assemblage – just one big, temporary collage or tacky Cornel box or Martha Stewart win/fail. So, I have had a lot of previous experience leading up to the creation of possibly the oddest prop I’ve ever made in my life. Only from the incomparable mind of Julie Jensen . . .

I am seriously so grateful to have worked with Julie, Cheryl, Jerry, Randy, Phil, Jesse, Jennifer, the amazing trio of Jeanette, Colleen and Kirt, and everyone at Plan-B on this singularly weird, truthful and wonderful show. I’m grateful for the help of my mother and husband, who both child wrangled and glued tiny halos or created tiny heads. My four-year -old saw “The Baby Jesus Collection” in rehearsal (and ONLY that piece) and has asked for an accidentally racist pincushion, but she wants it to be green, so that’s another Christmas miracle. I’m a lucky mommy/artist.

Christmas Truth #4: I LOVE that Baby Jesus Board. I hope they let me keep it.

The world premiere of Julie Jensen’s CHRISTMAS WITH MISFITS runs through December 21 at Plan-B Theatre. Tickets are available for three performances: Friday, December 19 at 8pm and Saturday, December 20 at 4pm and 8pm. Click here for tickets and more information.


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