Monday, December 14, 2009

My Favorite Memories from "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

1) Frances Hull laughing.
2) The night the Savior's arm came off in rehearsal.
3) Ian Cole: "No."
4) Reuben Shelton: "He's out to get the baby and he's not even in the play??"
5) The Silent Night Moment: pin-drop/no-applause as the lights dimmed on the angels and all the Herdmans kneeling at the manger.
6) Lex, cool-headed and patient, at the lightboard.
7) Rolling down the aisle in the food pantry barrel.
8) Walking Teagan Chandler and her mom backstage.
9) Hugging the Bird and all my other favorite audience members.
10) Rachelle Cole: "And Imogene will be....Mary."
11) Twinkies in the Break-a-Leg bags.
12) Live piano music from Eva, er Evan.
13) Five performances + two matinees = 1521 audience members
14) "Chris Schaefer/Santa Baby".
15) Jayme pushing and Hudson calming.
16) Our two matinee audiences full of kids, who laughed loudly and long, and yet knew when to get quiet.
17) The smooth-running Variety Show
18) Looking at the marquee lights in my snowflake glasses.
19) The amazing 'get 'er done' new parents we picked up along the way.
20) Sitting at the Lees', bone tired, and listening to the happy chatter of my theatre family reflecting on the Show Past, Show Present, and Show Yet to Come.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Curtain Speech for the Final Performance of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

My name is Christine Schaefer and I’m the director of KidsPlay, Inc. children’s theatre and the CrazyLake Acting Company. In the twelve years that I’ve been introducing plays in this community, our primary goal has been to make you laugh and applaud—we’ve never wanted to teach a lesson or deliver a message—just entertain you. But the show you’re about to see—“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”—has turned out to be quite different from what we usually do. Yes, it’s a comedy and a children’s play, but somehow, it’s been more than that, and I think I speak for everyone who has had the privilege of working together on this show when I say that this has been something special for us and for a good deal of our audiences. I honestly don’t know if it’s just because of the Christmas season, or…because of the message…but all of us, in some way, have been touched…and changed by our involvement with this show. It’s been an amazing experience for us…for me…and I hope—that when all is said and done--that that comes through in our performance and that what you feel is what we feel, during this most wonderful season of the year. And now, it is my great pleasure and privilege to invite you to share in the magic that has been and is “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

It's a sappy little show, really. Made into a stage play from a popular children's book. A fairly predictable story and script. Hoodlum kids invade the church's Christmas pageant. True meaning of Christmas "works its magic" and lives are changed. Everyone lives happily ever after.

We walk in some pretty deep footprints with this show. Creating storybook characters is tricky business, because when you read the book, you create the image in your imagination. Remember worrying if Harry Potter was going to be just like you imagined him? Or Frodo? Or Aslan? Would what you saw on the screen (or stage) live up to your imagination? The true Reader will tell you that the book is always better, so trying to bring to life the classic characters of Beth, Alice, Imogene, Gladys, Ralph, Mrs. Bradley is really going out on a limb.

But my kids--AND my adults--do it. They do it, and then some, making the characters their own. My adults: Rachelle, Kelly, Michael, Frances, Mona, Joe, and the rest--they've taken some fairly one-dimensional characters and brought them into 3-D, multi-dimmensional life. They've done a great job.

But my kids...oh, those kids...

They made me cry today. After 35 rehearsals and...six performances...still today, they 'got' me. Make no mistake, we pull out all the stops. The Herdmans smack each other so hard during the 'disruptive' scenes that you can hear the thumps and the slaps at the back of the auditorium. They race up and down the aisle at break-neck speed and get EVERYONE'S attention. Alice's disdain and perfectness are enough to make even model children gag. We use music to create a mood...and lights...the light on the manger, the spot on the family... Megan's timing on her heartfelt moments of understanding of the story...looking at the baby, laying in the manger, covering it, and leaving it...looking back...and leaving. And yes, Joe and Dennis, adding in the angel choir at the manger was the ne plus ultra. We've put together a beautiful little piece of theatre, if I do say so myself. And we're touching people. Making family memories. Creating a little Christmas magic all our own.

It's a wonderful show. It is. And it deserves an audience. We performed today the second of our matinees and it was a delightful experience. Sold out. The kids are truly the best audiences. They laugh and applaud. And then, they got quiet. They got it. We ALL got it. And, if you open your heart to the story, you will, too.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever". It is. Go see it.

Friday, December 4, 2009


It’s 4:57 a.m. My alarm just went off and I’m up. For some reason, it’s important to know the weather. I run outside in my bare feet to see if I can see the stars and there they are. It is just as it should be in December. Cold and clear. I can almost hear the Christmas spirit jingling in the air.

Today. Something is happening today. Something special. The something that is the first thing I think of when I get up and the last thing I think of when I go to bed.

And what have I got? What have I got? I’ll tell you. I’ve got stars in my sky and stars on my stage. I’ve got kids, all in their places, with smiles (or frowns) on their faces. I’ve got boys who are gonna ‘bring it on’ tonight. I’ve got two girls, one little and one near grown who are gonna make ‘em laugh, and then make ‘em cry. I’ve got adults with barely contained grins, thoroughly enjoying this chance to ‘play make-believe’ once again. I’ve got the best Grace Bradley to ever pace the stage. I’ve got a support system—back stage, in the booth, upstairs, in the dressing room, in the lobby—that can withstand gale winds and sudden showers and still make it happen.

What more could I want on this fine, cold clear December day? I’ll tell you. I made my wish out there in the cold, and I’ll tell you….tonight after the people take their seats…if it came true.