Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Monday, November 28, 2016

No More Miss Nice Girl: Maryanna Lauter Gets Mean In “Christmas Pageant”

Maryanna Lauter is no angel as Alice Wendleken in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

By her own recollection, Maryanna Lauter “practically grew up here at the Barn,” and has always played the “quiet and nice young girl” in such roles as a 5 year-old in A Wonderful Life, Olive in Spelling Bee, Velda in The Amish Project, and the title role in Annie.  Maryanna’s natural sweetness made her a great fit for those good-girl roles, and while she relishes those past experiences, now she’s singing a different tune:  No more miss nice girl! 

In the Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Maryanna plays Alice Wendleken, who she describes as “a stuck up, know-it-all who loves to be in the spotlight. I love getting to be the mean girl for once. Alice is self-absorbed, self-righteous and thinks she's the perfect Christian girl, but in truth, she is nasty and inconsiderate.”   Alice looks down on the Herdman children, who are newcomers to church and first-timers in the annual Christmas pageant.  So how did Maryanna learn how to get so mean?  “I prepared for my role by basing Alice off of real people I've come across in life as much as possible, and even trying to mirror mean girls I see in TV shows and movies.” 

Besides the fun challenge of playing her opposite, Maryanna wanted to be in Christmas Pageant because her mother Amy “was in this show when she was around my age. She played Gladys and I've always heard her saying it was one of her favorite shows she'd ever been in and I thought that I could pay homage to her by doing this show!”  Maryanna also credits director Terie Spencer for inspiring her to do her best work as an actor:  “Every show I've done with her has always been so memorable. I've grown not only as an actor, but as a person whenever she directs me in a show.”  Plus, it is especially fun to do a show with other kids from Warner Middle School (where she is in 8th grade), including Madi LaJoice, Hannah Weinraub, Michael Soverinsky and Ben Rakolta.

Beyond the fun and frivolity, Maryanna thinks audiences will enjoy this show because “not only is it a hilarious play for people of all ages, it has such a beautiful meaning that no matter how old you are, what your religion is, or what your past is, you can change for the better.”  In preparing for this role, Maryanna drew on some of her own earliest memories at church:  “I had heard the Christmas story countless times when I was younger. I went to Vacation Bible School every summer from ages 5-8. I remember hearing about God and Jesus and the Bible but never truly understood what those meant. … Flash forward to when I was 10 years old and I had to go with my dad because he had an organ gig at a church in Royal Oak. I didn't plan on really listening to the service but I did. I experienced a feeling I'd never felt before. It was the first time in a long time I had felt happy, as I was having a rough couple of years.  I wanted to cry because I felt so close with the Lord and I finally realized I had someone and something to turn to in times of hopelessness, anxiety and sadness.”  

Maryanna equates her own revelation with the children’s realization of the true meaning of Christmas in the play.  As she says, “I think that's what happens to the Herdmans, especially Imogene in our show. I'm lucky enough that something like that happened to me pretty early in life. On the other hand, I also relate to the church kids in our show from that story. They are raised hearing all about the Christian faith and what it means but probably don't get to experience the true meaning of religion until later in life, but like I said before, I was lucky enough to learn the true meaning at a young age.” Maryanna shows a level of maturity well beyond her 13 years, and to develop such a depth of understanding at her young age is no mean feat!

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Pastor Drex Morton Plays Baffled Reverend in “Christmas Pageant”

Bringing Order to Chaos:  Rehearsal for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
Sometimes actors complain of being type cast, but in the case of Drex Morton, he considers it a compliment. In the Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Drex plays Reverend Hopkins, and as he says, “I am a pastor, so playing the part of a ‘baffled’ one is certainly fun.”  Drex has been a pastor for 30 years, so the role must come naturally to him.  He and his wife Mary reside in Canton and he currently serves a church in Bridgewater, Michigan.

Even though Christmas Pageant is a holiday play, its message is nondenominational.  Director Terie Spencer says, “I hope audiences will see the connection we all have as people regardless of religious belief.  It's been a wonderful experience finding common ground as we prepare to present this charming story.”   Drex says, “I wanted to receive direction from Terie once again, because she is an excellent director and mentor for actors of all ages.”

Christmas Pageant truly has something for everyone, and while the play doesn’t attempt to convert anyone, it may transform you!   Drex knows that “audiences will love the mix of comedy and nostalgia, the talented children, and the introduction of a universal truth, as Terie stated it, that all the characters grow through the challenges presented.   Also, the kindnesses expressed toward those who are considered outcasts in the play within the play will bring out the very best in them, inspire generosity, and transform all who are involved, including the audience.”  

Like Reverend Holmes, Pastor Morton has a passion for helping folks.  In Drex’s case, he especially seeks to help those who are bereaved, and officiates about three funerals weekly.  In his few spare moments, he enjoys distance running, community theater, and choral singing.

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Brotherly Love: Rakolta Brothers Play Herdman Boys in "Christmas Pageant"

L to R—Saskia Koenig as Imogene Herdman, Suzi Collins-Duprey as Mother, and Ben Rakolta as Ralph Herdman.
Mother fails to maintain even a bit of decorum as the Herdmans take over the pageant rehearsal.
PHOTO by Jim Kelly
In this hilarious Christmas classic, a couple struggling to put on a church Christmas pageant is faced with casting the Herdman kids, six loveable delinquent children (Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys) who are probably the most inventively awful kids in history. (In fact, this play was titled "The Worst Kids in the World" in Australia, New Zealand and England.)  The Herdmans collide head on with the Christmas story, but their nonconventional telling unexpectedly sheds light on the true meaning of the holiday.

In the Farmington Players production, two of the Herdman boys are played by real-life brothers Benjamin and Nathan Rakolta.   Benjamin describes his character Ralph as “tough, yet cool. I like the role of Ralph because we share few personality similarities and it is fun to act in ways that are opposite of my usual self.”  His younger brother Nathan describes his character Claude as “combative and he asks a lot of questions. He is a tough kid. What I enjoy the most is the physical funny actions of my character. They are fun. I find playing a mean character challenging because I am not mean.” Like the Herdmans, the Rakoltas have a large family, which helped the boys prepare for their roles.  Benjamin and Nathan already have a lot of stage presence from dancing on stage with the Earth Angels, a 1950s and 60s dance entertainment group.

The brothers have a lot of friends in the cast, which is a real family affair that includes other siblings and several parents acting along side their own children.  Benjamin liked the script and he was looking for a play that was not a musical.  He thinks the Barn is “a perfect place for me to have my first acting experience.”  Similarly, Nathan wanted to be in this show because “I like to be on stage and acting is something I wanted to try. I also wanted to find out how productions were made, especially behind the scenes. When I grow up, I want to be a writer and producer.”

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is a funny and energetic play with a lot of heart.  Benjamin thinks audiences will connect with the story because it shows that first impressions are not always right.  As he said, “the Herdmans were judged as the worst family in the community, yet their addition created possibly the best show yet. Their donation of the ham showed that they really did care and they are not as bad as they are perceived.”   For his part, Nathan thinks that the play reinforces “the true meaning of Christmas – to be kind and to give to others.” But he also observes that “there is a lot of chaos in the show and I can relate to that because there is chaos at school, especially when kids fight in class.”  But there’s no fighting among this cast.  As Nathan said, “The cast is friendly and everyone is nice to me and each other. The director [Terie Spencer] is helpful because she tells me what to work on and helps me with my acting.”

Benjamin is an 8th grader and Nathan is a 6th grader at Warner Middle School. Both boys are members of the Forensics team. They are entering their fourth year of performing with The Earth Angels. When not on stage, Benjamin enjoys robotics, Legos, reading, bike riding, and hanging out with his friends. Nathan loves to swim, play Pok√©mon, read DC comics, practice his percussion instruments, and be imaginative. 

The Farmington Players production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is proudly sponsored by The Life Chest. The 12 performances run from December 2 - 18, 2016. Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

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