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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.

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