Students stick with a Christmas classic
CHRISTIANSBURG — A pink bunny suit, a boy with his tongue frozen to a pole and the glowing allure of a leg-shaped lamp.
For many people, these are the sights that indicate it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
While many Virginians will be able to catch such familiar scenes from the 1983 film, “A Christmas Story,” on their televisions this holiday season, their options for a live performance are far more limited.
According to Dramatic Publishing’s website, there are only five places in the commonwealth to watch its live theatrical version, and Christiansburg High School is one of them.
This weekend, the school’s drama department will host three performances of the play director Makala Witten said she began working to obtain the rights to close to a year ago.
Witten said the lengthy application process through Dramatic Publishing required her to provide information about the school’s past performances, attendance and facilities to ensure the “specialness” of the production.
Witten officially applied in February and said “Christmas came in July” in the form of a letter assuring her group would be allowed to perform the production.
While the limited distribution of the performance rights adds a unique element to the play, Witten said there is also the pressure to stay true to the well-known holiday favorite.
“We want to be original, but we have to maintain the identity of what is a favorite of so many people,” Witten said.
The weight of performing such a favorite is something senior Nicholas Hodges said adds pressure when performing.
“You have to know your lines backwards and forwards,” Hodges said. “If you miss one or two words, [the audience] will know it.”
Hodges portrays 9-year-old Ralphie Parker in his quest to get an “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time” for Christmas in the 1940s.
Hodges said the role comes natural to him, since he had always wanted a BB gun and had dressed up like a bunny before.
Bridging the gap between a Christmas wish and present leads Ralphie to do some crafty navigating among his family members, including his father, played by Avery Leffler; mother, portrayed by Lindsay Anderson; and little brother Randy, played by Taylor Stoneking.
Anderson described her character as a kind but hectic lady attempting to balance a life between helping her two sons and maintaining a relationship with a husband who seems to always have his mind on one of two things — the Christmas turkey or his beloved leg-shaped lamp.
“Me and the leg lamp, we have quite the affair,” Leffler admitted.
Although the role of the father is a serious one, Leffler said the character’s over-the-top nature makes him a lot of fun to play.
As for little brother Randy, Stoneking said her real challenge wasn’t playing the opposite gender, but rather portraying the character’s whiny personality.
“I’ve never acted like that before. … It’s very different,” Stoneking said.
Stoneking isn’t the only female tasked with taking on the role of a male. Witten said that due to the population of students who volunteered for the play, many of the male roles were cast to females.
The roles of Ralphie’s two best friends were cast in this fashion, with the role of Flick going to Kelli Buhrdorf and Schwartz to Olivia Dickerson.
Neither student seemed to have any problem taking on the male role, but Buhrdorf admitted struggling with her character’s acceptance of Schwartz’s infamous triple-dog dare to lick a frozen flagpole.
“It’s really hard to keep my tongue on the pole,” Buhrdorf said.
Of all the challenges faced during the show, perhaps the most daunting falls on Brett Carlston, who plays the adult version of Ralphie Parker and narrates the entire play from on stage.
Carlston said not only does he have a lot of lines, but that because his character doesn’t interact with other characters, he has to know the timing of the entire show.
Unlike many of his fellow actors, however, Carlston isn’t worried much about the audience being familiar with the story, but views it as one of the strengths of the performance.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643
“A Christmas Story”
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: Christiansburg High School
Cost: Adults, $7; students and senior citizens, $5
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