Behind the scenes of the Lincoln Theatre Guildâ€™s â€œThe Best Christmas Pageant Everâ€ is a whirlwind of angel wings, choir robes and 35 rowdy children.
â€œSometimes I donâ€™t feel like Iâ€™m a director, I feel like Iâ€™m a child wrangler,â€ said Andrea Tripodi, the playâ€™s director.
All this youthful excitement, however, is part of the playâ€™s charm.
â€œI think people will like the energy,â€ said Tripodi. â€œTheyâ€™re awfully cute.â€
â€œThe Best Christmas Pageant Everâ€ tells the story of a clan of troublesome children, the Herdmans, who steal, curse and fight.
â€œThey do lots of mean stuff, and theyâ€™re dirty, and theyâ€™re exciting,â€ 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.
â€œShe is very mean, but sheâ€™s not snobby mean,â€ said Bailey Parker, who plays Imogene. â€œSheâ€™s a less fortunate child, and sheâ€™s very bossy and commanding, but in the end, she ends up good.â€
Yes itâ€™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 â€œUnto you a child is born!â€
â€œI think a lot of people can learn from it,â€ said Bree Wilbite, 11, who plays the narrator. â€œThey can find even if someone is bad, the good can show through. Thereâ€™s good down there somewhere.â€
Before the good can be found in the Herdmans, however, thereâ€™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.
â€œThere are just so many of them, and they all want to go in different directions,â€ said Laura Estep, the assistant director.
Throughout the two month rehearsal process, friendships were made and crushes developed.
â€œTheyâ€™ve become this huge group of friends,â€ said Estep.
The director has enjoyed watching her rambunctious cast of creative children blossom.
â€œThe amount of talent in this show is extraordinary, but getting it focused is difficult,â€ 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 â€“ kids who have a creative bent and enjoy being in the center of attention.
â€œWhen you find someone who shares your own passion itâ€™s really neat,â€ said Bailey. â€œI like to be the star. I like people watching me. I just feel more confident acting than talking to real people.â€
Bailey has participated in a number of shows, but for many members of the cast, â€œThe Best Christmas Pageant Everâ€ was their first experience acting.
Choosing who got what parts was a difficult for Tripodi.
â€œIt really came down to casting families and having them look alike,â€ she said. â€œAny of those kids could have played any of those parts.â€
As for the Herdman family, three of the boys are brothers in real life, and they made use of that experience.
â€œItâ€™s not really acting for them,â€ said Estep. â€œThey actually hit each other in real life.â€
For the members of the cast who are not related, ending the play will be a sad time.â€œI love it because Iâ€™ve made so many friends,â€ said Bailey. â€œItâ€™s going to be really hard to say bye next week.â€by Sarah Grano