Those rowdy Herdman kids are back to take over Christmas.
The Herdmans — and the rest of the 25-member cast of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" — take the Pellissippi State Community College stage next week in a production by Knoxville-based The WordPlayers. Family-friendly public shows are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14 and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15 at the Clayton Performing Arts Center on Pellissippi's Hardin Valley campus.
Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens or students, $8 for children ages 12 to 17, $5 for children under age 12. Tickets are at 865-694-6684 or www.pstcc.edu/arts/theatre. The 2:30 p.m. Dec. 15 show is also a designated "Penny 4 Arts" show. That means Knox County students coming to the show with a paying adult get in for one penny; there's a limit of one adult for every three students.
WordPlayers also presents school performances at 9:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Dec. 17 and Dec. 18. Tickets for those shows are $5; group reservations are at 865-539-2490.
The one-hour comedy focuses on a children's church Christmas pageant about the birth of Jesus. Church member Grace Bradley, played by Jessica Cross, must step in as the pageant director when the play's usual supervisor is hospitalized.
Bradley's first-time directing stint is challenged when the ill-behaved yet quirky and creative Herdman children decide they'll take over the key roles in the production. Soon the Herdmans and those around them find the true spirit of Christmas.
"You see this group of kids that are a little out of control but you see them make a change. They learn something and the other people around them learn something from that too. … It changes everybody a little bit," says director Matthew Lloyd.
The production is a collaboration between Pellissippi and The WordPlayers, a nonprofit troupe of Christian theater artists. It's part of the college's revived Arts at Pellissippi State cultural series that includes performances of theater, music and other arts events.
Lloyd's no stranger to the play. He stage-managed a production some years ago that was overseen by local actor Jeff Delaney. Starting in 2004, Delaney produced several years of the December play. He's designing and building the sets for The WordPlayers production. Some Pellissippi students have backstage roles on the play's behind-the-scenes crew.
Most of the cast are children ranging in age from early elementary school to older teens. "The tendency for younger actors is not to give you as much as you want, to think 'I don't want to do that.' So you have to push them to be more rambunctious and at some point it's enough. But I've got a pretty good group," says Lloyd.
Lloyd says Barbara Robinson's 1972 play didn't need much updating. The WordPlayers production is set in 2013, so the actors selected their stage wardrobe from their own closets. And Lloyd managed to give the play a decidedly 21st-century feel. At one point in the play the original script called for a character to whisper a "dirty word." In this telling, the character pulls out a cellphone and texts it to the other person's cell.
"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"
n What: Comedy about a children's holiday pageant
n When: Public shows 7:30 p.m. Dec. 14, 2:30 & 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15
n Where: Clayton Performing Arts Center, Pellissippi State Community College Hardin Valley campus
n Tickets: $12 adults, $10 senior citizens or students, $8 ages 12- 17, $5 under age 12 at 865-694-6684 or www.pstcc.edu/arts/theatre
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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