Being directed by a soft spoken 16-year-old, isnâ€™t what most actors expect when entering into a holiday play with a cast of over 50 performers.
â€œIt struck me as somewhat funny or unusual at first, but itâ€™s been good,â€ said Bill Coram, who plays Rev. Hopkins in â€œThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever.â€ â€œWe can tell she knows what sheâ€™s doing.â€
Ashton Howard, a student at Lincolnton High School, certainly does know what sheâ€™s doing. Sheâ€™s been active in theater since she was six-years-old.
â€œI find it a really fun and rewarding experience, and I enjoy spending my time that way,â€ she said. â€œI really enjoy being on stage. I enjoy getting to be a different character.â€
Although she has directed plays during drama camp, â€œThe Best Christmas Pageant Everâ€ is Ashtonâ€™s first serious attempt at directing.
The play, which is being put on by the First Baptist Church of Lincolnton, is a humorous and touching tale of a group of six troublesome children, the Herdmans, who virtually take over a church Christmas pageant.
â€œThey terrorize the town. Thereâ€™s one in every grade, so everyone gets terrified by them,â€ said Ashton.
By the end of the play, however, the siblings soften up a bit.
â€œThe Herdmans learn the meaning of Christmas,â€ she said. â€œEveryone else realizes it through them.â€
Ashton performed the playâ€™s lead role at a church she used to attend.
â€œI had a lot of fun doing it with the other church, but I wanted to see it done differently,â€ she said.
And so, she took it upon herself to start up a new production. She cast parts, blocked scenes and learned the frustration of trying to get a large group of people to stay quiet.
â€œIt hasnâ€™t been easy,â€ she said. â€œThey like to talk a lot.â€
Members of her cast have noticed a change in the quiet teenager who was much more timid when rehearsals began.
â€œHere towards the end as the times gotten closer, she felt the pressure and pushed us harder,â€ said Coram. â€œShe expects everyone, including her peers, to listen to her and respect her.â€
Buzz around the church about the play has been positive, and the Sunday performance is sold out.
â€œAt this point, thereâ€™s a waiting list,â€ said Gaye Howard, Ashtonâ€™s mother. â€œWe expected a good turn out. We got a great turn out.â€
An additional performance has been scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 8. Unlike Sundayâ€™s performance, it will not be a dinner theater. The play will begin at 6:30 and a contribution of $5 per person is required.
Ashton is happy that the play will run more than once, but she has found herself getting more anxious as opening night draws closer.
â€œIâ€™m nervous and excited because itâ€™s not finished yet, and it never is until the night before,â€ she said.
Her cast shares her enthusiasm.
â€œItâ€™s going to be awesome,â€ said Montgomery Fletcher, a 10-year-old actor. â€œMy favorite part is when weâ€™re just talking, when you say a funny line that makes everyone laugh.â€
Once the curtain draws on this play, Ashton plans on continuing her involvement in theater. She has even considered committing to it as a career one day.
â€œEven if I donâ€™t pursue it professionally, Iâ€™ll do community theater all my life,â€ she said.
For more information on â€œThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever,â€ call 704-732-1101.
Marty Coram takes the stage in â€œThe Best Christmas Pageant Ever.â€ Coram plays Mrs. Armstrong, the neighborhood busybody. Sarah Grano / LTN Photo
by Sarah Grano