Cleveland holiday production led to strengthened community and new business

December 16, 2022
Photo from the Great Lakes Theater’s production of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic A Christmas Carol. (Photography by Roger Mastroianni)

Great Lakes Theater first approached U.S. Bank to support the arts, later became a customer.

At a time when Great Lakes Theater needed a community partner the most to produce its annual production of A Christmas Carol, Andi Garten channeled her inner Bob Cratchit more than Ebenezer Scrooge.

“In 2019, Great Lakes Theater approached us about being a production sponsor of A Christmas Carol,” recalled Garten, U.S. Bank market leader for Ohio and Indiana. “We didn’t have an existing relationship with the theater, but I loved that the theater is really involved with our local school system and offers unique opportunities to draw kids into the arts.”

Since 1989, Great Lakes Theater has partnered with the Cleveland Metropolitan School District (CMSD) in producing its annual A Christmas Carol writing contest. Every year, approximately 2,000 CMSD middle school students write original stories inspired by Charles Dickens’ classic and then each school selects one winner per grade level to be considered for one of six grand prizes. 

“Each grand prize-winning writer receives a plaque, an illustrated A Christmas Carol book, and complimentary tickets to attend the production with their family. Audio recordings of Great Lakes Theater actors reading winning-stories are also produced to celebrate student writing achievements,” said Managing Director Todd Krispinsky. This unique literacy aspect of Great Lakes Theater’s 34th annual holiday production is in addition to a designated sensory-friendly performance that is offered (making live theater accessible to students and adults on the autism spectrum and with other disabilities).

"There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than to indulge in local theater and let the story take you to a different time and place that reminds you of what the holidays and loved ones should mean to all of us.”

Andi Garten,  U.S. Bank Market Leader for Indiana and Ohio.

These kinds of unique engagement opportunities with Northeast Ohio students and families may have been the reason why Garten felt sponsoring A Christmas Carol fit with the commitment U.S. Bank makes to serve its communities and make an impact, but she didn’t know what saying yes to the theater would mean for business.

“In 2020 at the height of the pandemic, Great Lakes Theater, like other arts organizations across the country, was deeply impacted. When the theater reached out at a difficult time to talk about business, our U.S. Bank Centre branch team on Euclid Avenue was there to support.”

Krispinsky said the support of A Christmas Carol was a key factor in the theater’s decision to move its general operating funds to U.S. Bank. “As a theater company, we prioritize community and partnership. When we were seeking to diversify our financial partners during the pandemic from a business perspective, we felt confident that U.S. Bank would be a great match. Despite the pandemic challenges that we faced at the time, U.S. Bank made the transaction seamless,” he said. “Not to mention, U.S. Bank is conveniently located in our neighborhood. To be able to work in person with our bankers who are just a few steps away is important to us.”

Additionally, U.S. Bank is essential to the behind-the-scenes aspects of all of Great Lakes Theater’s seasonal productions. “Our partnership has provided us with the financial infrastructure that enables our scenic and costume shop artisans to bring designer visions to reality on stage. Our scenic and costume shop directors each received a U.S. Bank credit card so that they could purchase everything from a spool of thread to the lumber necessary to build a set.”

Garten, a Cleveland resident herself, is a huge fan of the annual A Christmas Carol production, which engages more than 25,000 students and adults annually and is on track to return to and exceed pre-pandemic attendance levels. “I’ve taken my girls and many U.S. Bank employees attend every year. There’s no better way to get into the holiday spirit than to indulge in local theater and let the story take you to a different time and place that reminds you of what the holidays and loved ones should mean to all of us.”

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