‘Best Christmas Contest Ever’: COA to Stage Holiday Comedy | Local News
The Herdman kids are the meanest and rowdiest kids in town, and when they hear that there will be free snacks for participants in the local church’s Christmas pageant, they bravely sign up.
And that’s when chaos ensues.
The Herdmans’ unconventional performances in the competition form the plot of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” the holiday-themed play which opens at the College of The Albemarle’s Performing Arts Center on December 9.
“They’re the worst kids in town,” says co-director Jennifer Wilson, describing the Herdman kids. “They are intimidating their way into the church contest.”
Based on Barbara Robinson’s 1971 children’s novel of the same name, “The Best Christmas Show Ever” takes place as Herdman’s six children smoking cigars, drinking wine and swearing take the lead roles in the show. annual church show. Imogene, Ralph, Claude, Leroy, Ollie and Gladys Herdman create chaos for the otherwise orderly and traditional religious event.
“It’s a hilarious show. The cast gives us what we need for comedic performances, ”said Wilson, a longtime COA theater artist and currently a theater arts student.
Wilson, who also teaches in elementary school, co-directs “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” with Mariah Schierer, director of the performing arts center at the community college. Together, they lead a team of nearly 60 performers, each role doubles with understudies.
Performances are scheduled for December 9 at 10 a.m., December 10 at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., December 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and December 12 at 2 p.m.
The 2pm performance on December 11 will be ‘sensory to the senses’, meaning it is aimed at audience members who are on the autism spectrum and struggle with bright lights and loud noises. , and which remain motionless. The idea to stage a sensory representation of the play arose out of Wilson’s own experience with his now 18-year-old daughter Gabby, who is autistic.
Wilson, Gabby, and Wilson’s other daughter, Elise, are all COA theater veterans. Gabby, Wilson says, grew up in the theater but at first it was difficult for her to adjust to its sometimes hectic pace.
“She’s been a mainstay of this theater for six years,” Wilson said. “But she was misunderstood.”
Becca Brown, another young woman who had been in the ACO drama program and who herself has autism, recognized Gabby’s specific needs and took her under her wing. Brown showed Gabby how to navigate the spontaneous and noisy theatrical environment. The results were very positive for Gabby, who will play one of the Herdman children in the sensory performance.
“Since that time, I’ve always seen the theater as something for everyone,” said Wilson, who hopes this is just the first of many sensory productions at the COA.
As part of the staging of a sensory performance, theater lights will be adjusted to provide a calming atmosphere, microphones will be turned down to reduce echoes, bangs and bangs, and commotion will be encouraged. In addition, PAC will provide safe spaces for anyone who needs to move around the room.
“We’re going to turn the lights down and the mics down,” Gabby said. “I am very happy about it. We are creating a safe space and I am very excited about it.
Another difficulty for people with the autism spectrum can be dealing with the unexpected. Wilson says the theater company produces a synopsis of the play in a “storybook” format that families can print out as well as a handout that answers questions about the performance. She says it will help theatergoers on the autism spectrum better understand what they are going through.
On stage, meanwhile, the chaos caused by the Herdman children will continue as planned, angering the stilted church ladies in charge of the church pageant. In one scene, the Herdmans smoking in the church toilet prompt a church lady to call the fire department.
It’s that kind of hilarity that makes “The Best Christmas Pageant” a heartwarming family Christmas story that will make any audience member laugh.
General admission tickets for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” are $ 18 for adults, $ 17 for seniors and military, $ 8.50 for children and students, and can be purchased online at www.albemarle.edu/for-the-community/the-arts/.