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Christmas play teaches lessons

Behind the scenes of the Lincoln Theatre Guild’s “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is a whirlwind of angel wings, choir robes and 35 rowdy children.
“Sometimes I don’t feel like I’m a director, I feel like I’m a child wrangler,” said Andrea Tripodi, the play’s director.
All this youthful excitement, however, is part of the play’s charm.
“I think people will like the energy,” said Tripodi. “They’re awfully cute.”
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” tells the story of a clan of troublesome children, the Herdmans, who steal, curse and fight.
“They do lots of mean stuff, and they’re dirty, and they’re exciting,” said Kayla Lawson, 10, who sings in the angel choir.
There was one place the local children were free from the Herdmans — church. That all changes when the six children step in and virtually take over the Christmas pageant.
Imogene Herdman, one of the nastiest, meanest girls, gets the role of Mary. No mother will allow their newborn to play Jesus for fear of what Imogene might do.
“She is very mean, but she’s not snobby mean,” said Bailey Parker, who plays Imogene. “She’s a less fortunate child, and she’s very bossy and commanding, but in the end, she ends up good.”
Yes it’s true, by the close of the play all the Herdman children have learned the true meaning of Christmas. Imogene calms down as she gazes at the baby in her arms, and Gladys Herdman exhibits her excitement about the birth of the son of God by yelling at the top of her lungs “Unto you a child is born!”
“I think a lot of people can learn from it,” said Bree Wilbite, 11, who plays the narrator. “They can find even if someone is bad, the good can show through. There’s good down there somewhere.”
Before the good can be found in the Herdmans, however, there’s a lot of kicking, fighting and general bullying.
This behavior was not exactly mimicked backstage, although the cast of children did prove to be a handful.
“There are just so many of them, and they all want to go in different directions,” said Laura Estep, the assistant director.
Throughout the two month rehearsal process, friendships were made and crushes developed.
“They’ve become this huge group of friends,” said Estep.
The director has enjoyed watching her rambunctious cast of creative children blossom.
“The amount of talent in this show is extraordinary, but getting it focused is difficult,” Tripodi said.
A number of young actors are home-schooled, and the play has given them a chance to be surrounded by kids their own age.
The children have also enjoyed the opportunity to be around other children like them – kids who have a creative bent and enjoy being in the center of attention.
“When you find someone who shares your own passion it’s really neat,” said Bailey. “I like to be the star. I like people watching me. I just feel more confident acting than talking to real people.”
Bailey has participated in a number of shows, but for many members of the cast, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” was their first experience acting.
Choosing who got what parts was a difficult for Tripodi.
“It really came down to casting families and having them look alike,” she said. “Any of those kids could have played any of those parts.”
As for the Herdman family, three of the boys are brothers in real life, and they made use of that experience.
“It’s not really acting for them,” said Estep. “They actually hit each other in real life.”
For the members of the cast who are not related, ending the play will be a sad time.“I love it because I’ve made so many friends,” said Bailey. “It’s going to be really hard to say bye next week.”by Sarah Grano

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