The sounds of Christmas are ringing up and down the halls of Newport schools as the cast of our winter play prepares for their performance of the Jean Shepard classic, "A Christmas Story".
Based on the popular holiday movie from 1983, this performance will mark the third winter production for Newport Independent Schools. "Yes, Virginia" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" entertained Newport audiences in 2012 and 2013. However, now our theater director, Brittany Stacy, is exploring more difficult scripts and encouraging our cast of young performers to advance their skills. "A Christmas Story" explores the childhood of nine-year-old Ralphie Parker as he prepares for the holiday season with one goal in mind. He wants to get exactly what he wants for Christmas...a toy BB gun to help him fulfill his Western-inspired daydreams. While pursuing his goal, he comes to realize something far more important than material possessions. He realizes how much his family and friends really mean to him.
Since the script is set it in the 1930's (more than 70 years before many of our young performers were even born), it is especially challenging for students to make the leap into an era in which their parents -- and possibly even grandparents -- were not yet born. Through this play, the cast has learned about a time when things were much simpler and completely different from the modern technology-geared world that they live in today.
The colorful words of Shepard have been a big challenge for several characters including high school sophomore, Kayla Lawson, who plays an older Ralphie, looking at his childhood memories of Christmas. Kayla confides, "This is a much harder part for me than my character last year...with harder words!" Kayla also says that -- even though it is a much harder part to deliver -- she enjoys it very much. She smiles broadly and says, "I love working with everybody!"
Cortez Watkins, an eighth-grader at Newport Middle School is also playing a challenging character. Cortez portrays Ralphie’s father, or as he calls him, "Old Man." Cortez says, "I really like my character and his crazy words. I can relate to him too, because I know what it is like to be grumpy."
Several classic scenes from the movie are portrayed in the performance, including the famous leg lamp, as well as, Raphie’s best friend, Flick’s "double dog dare" that lands him in a bit of a bind.
The cast includes 24 students from Newport Intermediate, Middle and High Schools. They have been working tirelessly since October reading the script and stage directions, learning lines, and blocking scenes three days a week after school at rehearsals. They are truly learning the responsibility and difficulties in not only performing a production but being a part of the design and decision-making process of the director. Senior Nekko Beal says she enjoys theater because it give her a chance to be involved in a new and different school activity. "I like not being myself for a while...and I enjoy my character. She is a boss and a leader. I am a perfect fit for that!" Nekko is a senior and she says that doing theater has made her final year of high school exciting. "You might as well go out with a bang!" she smiles.
The students in our Visual and Performing Arts courses will help to create the set pieces, as well as painting and preparing props for the performers. Newport resident, Wes Ledyard, is currently creating a costume design that will be sure to bring the pure simplicity of a 1939 Christmas to the stage. Also assisting the director, is Susan Whitehead and teacher Mr. Charles Leon. They provide skills and mentoring to enhance the performance, as well as helping to deliver a life-experience that our students will always treasure. We owe everyone that supports our emerging theater program a huge debt of gratitude.
The cast could not be more excited to share their version of this classic story. The performances will take place at 7 pm on December 11 and 12 at Newport Primary School. Be sure to join us and enjoy watching these young performers bring the humor of the holidays to life!