Players of the Stage presenting ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’
Young actors with Players of the Stage, a local Christian theater group, have been practicing diligently to present the one-act play “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
Based on Barbara Robinson’s work of the same name, the play tells the story of six delinquent children who go to church for the first time after learning snacks would be served.
Despite protests from church members, the youngsters are given roles in the Sunday School’s Christmas play.
Upper Macungie resident Emmerson Masenheimer, from Cast 1, portrays Grace Bradley.
“Mrs. Bradley is the reluctant director of her church’s Christmas pageant,” Masenheimer said. “The role of director was thrust upon her after Mrs. (Helen) Armstrong, the usual director of the pageant broke her leg.”
Armstrong is played by Isabelle Yengst of Salisbury Township.
Masenheimer said Grace Bradley is very adaptable.
“She can change from rehearsal to rehearsal and I have fun trying different things with her,” Masenheimer said.
“This is my third time participating in ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ and it’s bringing back lots of memories.
“It is a simple show but it can be powerful.”
Alyssa Pye of Upper Saucon Township plays Mrs. Bradley in Cast 2.
“Mrs. Bradley is a mother of two who has been given the task of directing the church’s Christmas pageant,” Pye said. “Although the process of directing this pageant makes her frazzled, she rediscovers what Christmas is really all about — the birth of Jesus and his impact on our lives.”
Pye likes how her character doesn’t quit.
“When she is told she’s not good enough and she should give up on the pageant and the Herdmans, (played by Abby Frailey, Naomi Brimer, Eli Masenheimer, Nick Velez, Evan Diem and Andrew Hutchinson), she is determined to prove everyone wrong,” Pye said.
“I like that I am able to serve the Allentown Rescue Mission while being able to do one of my favorite things — acting.”
Bianca Giannantonio of Kutztown plays Beth Bradley in Cast 1.
“Beth Bradley is a middle schooler who gets caught in the middle of a disaster when the Herdmans, the school bullies, invade her only safe place — the church,” Giannantonio said. “When the Herdmans take over the Christmas pageant, making everyone around them miserable, Beth’s perspective on them continues to worsen, until the final performance when she sees a very different side of the Herdmans and experiences a change of heart.”
Giannantonio enjoys playing Beth because of her ability to break the fourth wall (an invisible, imagined wall separates actors from the audience) and share her inner thoughts with the audience.
“She’s a fun, slightly immature, very relatable character who goes through a great character change throughout the show,” Giannantonio said. “It’s always fun to play out her interactions with the rest of the characters in the play.”
Hannah Shane of Earl Township, Berks County, portrays Beth Bradley in Cast 2.
“Beth Bradley is a very fun character and I am so excited to be able to bring her to life on stage,” Shane said. “She is a caring person who is easily intimidated by the Herdmans.
“She knows what they can do and fears for everyone who might fall under their wrath.
“It is fun to play Beth because she has a lot of emotions, and has a lot of interactions that form those emotions.
“Over the course of the play, she slowly changes her perspective of the Herdmans, which is challenging to try to convey to the audience.”
Abby Frailey of Allen Township commented on her role playing Imogene Herdman in Cast 1.
“Imogene is considered one of the worst kids in the whole history of the world, and she loves it,” Frailey said.
Frailey said Imogene enjoys inflicting pain on others and causing mass destruction.
Where there’s trouble, that’s where she’ll be, Frailey said, adding Imogene goes to the pageant rehearsals with the only intention of messing it up but she comes out changed for the better.
“Personally, I’m not a fan of Christmas. It’s just so commercialized nowadays,” she said.
“So playing Imogene, being able to connect with her feelings when she’s in the pageant — the whole, whoa, this is what Christmas is about, makes me stop and remember Christmas is about Jesus — his loving us so much He was willing to leave paradise so He could save us. That’s pretty awesome.
“It’s (the play) got a fantastic message — nobody not even someone as bad as the Herdmans is beyond the reach of God’s love.”
Abby Klase of North Whitehall Township commented on portraying Imogene Herdman with Cast 2.
“Imogene is a Herdman and she is a rough kid. She and her brothers and sister beat up kids in school. They curse and smoke cigars,” Klase said. “She just wants to be in control over people.”
Klase enjoys playing her character because she is mean but she is also interesting and impacted by the Christmas story.
The play is directed by Lindsay Swavely. John McClure is the assistant director.
Marian Barshinger is the stage manager and Elisabeth Barshinger is choir director.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is the story of the school bullies learning the true meaning of Christmas, and all that happens before they do,” Swavely said.
“We will be donating all proceeds to the Allentown Rescue Mission. Its mission is something we believe strongly in as a corporation, and it is our tradition to donate our Christmas show proceeds to their cause.”
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will be performed 7 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9 and 2 p.m. Dec. 2 and 9.
Performances will be presented at Living Hope Presbyterian Church, 330 Schantz Road, Lower Macungie.
Tickets are free but reservations are required. A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Allentown Rescue Mission, which provides programs to aid homeless men.
For tickets, call 610-310-7604 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, visit playersofthestage.com.