By Crystal McGough, Editor
TRUSSVILLE – ACTA Jr. is almost ready to premiere its annual Christmas children’s play, which this year will be “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” written by Barbara Robinson and directed by Jennifer Day, with Lynne Long as the assistant director.
With a cast of 29 local youths, some who have already acquired experience on the stage and some who are first-time actors, this performance is one for the whole family.
“We have had a really great group of kids,” director Jennifer Day said. “They work really well together and a lot of them know each other because they’ve done ACTA plays before. During the casting process, … you always have one or two that it just kind of hits you and it’s like, ‘That’s our (this character).’ I always love to see somebody come in and just really develop and grow into that character.”
Another thing about the casting that stands out to Day is watching kids, even her own, as they grow up in theater, having once been cast in younger roles and now being cast as adult characters.
“Kids that I’ve known for the last five and six years, 14-15-year-olds, are being cast as the parents and the adults of the group,” she said. “(I’m) used to seeing them as the kids and now they’re the parents and the adults. Just watching them come into that and own it … it’s been a really fun experience to watch that.”
The plot, Day said, is that a church is preparing for its annual Christmas pageant, which has always been directed by the same “old church lady” (played by Tori Lloyd), who is not hospitalized due to a broken leg. In her absence, the reigns of the pageant have been handed over to the least likely person.
“Imagine you’re the family in the town that everybody just dreads to see coming, and this is your perfect church Christmas pageant, and it’s having to be taken over by someone who has never done the pageant before,” Day said. “She’s really kind of in over her head; she’s kind of on the outskirts of the ladies group at church. But she’s the only one available and she’s got kids in the pageant, so let’s use her.”
To add to the crazy mix, a group of school bullies find out about the Christmas pageant and show up at auditions.
“They come on the day that this new person is asking for volunteers for the different roles of the Christmas pageant and 100% get right in the middle of it,” Day said. “Everybody in town thinks this is going to be a fiasco. This is going to be the biggest disaster ever … it’s going to be horrible. And it winds up being this perfect story of redemption and change, and how we can get the wrong idea of someone based on how they act, when if you look deeper, you’ll see why they act the way they do. Sometimes it’s just a tough exterior because they’ve just been trying to survive.”
Day said, more than anything, she’s looking forward to seeing the audience members react to the play, hoping that it has the same effect on them as it does on her.
“There are certain moments that make me giggle and I can just hear the audience laugh already,” she said. “And then there are certain moments every time that make me cry when we’re rehearsing, and I’m hoping that comes forward for everyone. Not that they cry, but that they get the same experience that I’ve had watching these kids rehearse, when they’re on stage. There are some really great moments.”
Due to school and busy schedules, these students and their crew have prepared for this production with rehearsals being held only one night each week for the past nine weeks. Their tech week begins Dec. 11 and there will be five performances, which Day said is more than the usual amount for ACTA Jr.
Performances will be held on Dec. 14, 15 and 16 at 7 p.m., and Dec. 16 and 17 at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and can be purchased at actatheater.com
“This is a perfect event for you to bring the whole family,” Day said. “I think the older generation will love it as well as the kids. There’s something for everybody.”