The shipwreck of the Rouse Simmons, known as 'The Christmas Tree Ship', served as inspiration for THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER. Her captain and crew risked the notoriously violent winter lake to bring Christmas trees from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago's German immigrants. Each year, Captain Herman Schuenemann would sell trees right off of the ship at the Clark Street Docks, and was known to give free trees to the needy. On November 23rd 1912, the ship was swept up in a terrible storm. It was not until 59 years later that she was discovered, lying in 170 feet of water. Today the Rouse Simmons and her cargo of 5,500 well stacked trees remain preserved in the cold, fresh waters of Lake Michigan and her legend has grown to mythical proportions. The Blaine Nickelodeon - the silent film theater that now houses the Mercury - opened that very same year.
THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER has entertained audiences in hundreds of productions including a twelve year run at Chicago's Bailiwick Repertory Theatre. Last year the Mercury revived the tradition with a full orchestra and an all-star cast, garnering a "Best Production" nomination for the 2012 Jeff Awards. The Chicago Tribune calls this show "a grand family tradition" and "a sacred part of a Chicago Christmas". The Chicago Sun-Times raved, "an inheritance to be treasured", "pleases in every way", "highly recommended". A timely and uplifting tale of love and loss, THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER reminds us of tradition, and our responsibility to celebrate the living while honoring our heritage.