M-S Christmas play 'Wake up Santa' a 'show for the kids'

The whole storyline of Mahomet-Seymour's Christmas play performances was in the title itself, "Wake Up Santa," but the show was far from a snooze-fest for the audiences.

For Carly Pogue, a senior co-director, the crowd-pleasing moments all came down to the holiday songs from "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to "Jingle Bells" and much more.

"They have high energy," Pogue said.

"There's definitely some parts of our show where the kids get involved and even have props and things like that," she added. "It's definitely a show for the kids."

"I think it's really fun when all of the animals come on and then all of us are ad-libbing animal noises," added Penny Sheridan, a freshman who played Elf No. 3.

The Saturday performances led by two different casts totaling 37 cast members were student directed by three co-directors respectively for each show.

"We still work together and then we each distribute our own personalities to the cast," said Karli Waldrep, a senior co-director.

"For me it's fun being a director because I was in the Christmas play my freshman and sophomore years and then I was a director last year and it's just fun getting to be with them (the cast) and seeing their personalities and their persona in theater in the less than month time we have to put on a show," she added.

Pogue, who also starred as the fall play's lead as Carol Robinson in "I Don't Have a Clue," said this year's Christmas play performance was her second year at the helm of co-directing.

"I think it's a really good way to view the drama department from a different angle because you really get to see what goes through your director's mind, like taking notes as an actor sometimes it gets monotonous and it's nice to have a different viewpoint."

But part of having two different casts for the performances, Friday's for Lincoln Trail and Middletown Prairie Elementary students and Saturday's for the public, meant different renditions of the same show.

"Sometimes the shows turn out very differently, which is very interesting," Pogue said.

"Every director wrote in lines to make sure every actor had at least one or two lines, so there's a little bit of variation between the two," M-S' Christmas play faculty adviser Amber Gibbard said.

But perhaps some of the most memorable moments for the cast were ones that happened during rehearsals leading up to the performances.

"Every once in a while we'll have a less important day and we'll stop rehearsal early and we'll play different improv games which is always fun," said Liam Henry, a freshman who played the Reindeer Master. "Our favorite is Mafia."

"Another game that we played was a taxi driver game and it was really cool because you got to interact with another person one-on-one to try and make them laugh and it was really hard," said Abby Loven, a freshman who played Miss Quack Quack.

For Cassie Schwarzentraub, a freshman who played Oopah, the best moments were when a cast member would forget a line.

"They're trying to stay in character or they're like, 'I don't know what I'm supposed to say here,' " she said. "It's just funny."

The one-of-a-kind, whirlwind experience of putting on a show with only a month of preparation was an unforgettable learning experience for many, especially Schwarzentraub.

"This is my first play ever so it's given me more experience in drama to do more things like the musical or the fall play next year," she said.

For Sheridan, it was the opportunity to learn from experienced upperclassmen, such as the likes of Pogue.

"Like Carly (Pogue), she had a lead in the fall play so I feel like I'm getting some advice from the best and I think that's preparing me for the next years in high school and drama," she said.

But far greater than a learning experience was the opportunity to provide a community holiday staple.

"My first show that I ever saw was actually the Christmas play when my parents brought me and it got me really excited for drama and that's also why I'm here now because I was like, 'Oh, these kids can do it, why can't I?' " Loven said.

For Henry, who also played Lester during the fall play, the best part of such a unique opportunity was kicking off the holiday season for the youngest of audience members.

"I know when I was a little kid I always got really excited for Christmas and I feel like this is a good way to introduce the holiday season and also it's just a fun time," he added.

As for Waldrep, it's all about the elementary performances and the reaction of the youngsters.

"It's just fun for the little kids because they get so into the Christmas spirit, but also for the older kids because they kind of get to see like, 'Oh hey, that's something I can do when I get to high school,' " she said. "It's fun and maybe not as intimidating as a longer play or full-length musical."

As faculty adviser, Gibbard said she was "really impressed" with the maturity of the student directors' dealing with cast member absences, difficult situations or the occasional forgetting of a line.

"I was really proud of the cast because they really pulled together in the end and put on two great performances," she said.

Gibbard said the audiences loved the Saturday performances.

"They walked out with smiles on their faces and I think that's everything you can ask for with a performance like this," Gibbard said.

"And they liked the cookies of course," she joked.

Her favorite part?

The inclusiveness of the show.

"What's nice about this kind of show is it allows us to be inclusive. We were able to have students (who have) special needs involved, students in upper classes and those in general classes," Gibbard said. "It was a way for kids to see past the academic rigor and really engage with each other and enjoy each other."

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