This weekend in Green Lake: A Holiday Double Hitter!
This weekend enjoy one, but two, time-honored Green Lake holiday traditions! On Saturday, December 13th, there will be the Pathway of Lights as well as the opening of SPT’s Bathhouse much adored The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
ABOUT THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER–
To everyone’s amazement, the Herdman kids hijack the annual church Christmas pageant. Chaos escalates as the festivities are turned upside down and the kids ultimately challenge everyone’s traditional notions of Christmas. For young and old alike, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (BXPE) has become a holiday family tradition at SPT and is not to be missed.
This season, teaching artist Emily Purington takes over the BXPE director’s chair and makes her SPT Mainstage debut with a holiday favorite that has become as much a tradition as candy canes and eggnog.
I was curious to learn more about this beloved play and was lucky to have both Emily as well as Shana Bestock, former director, answer a few questions!
Seattle Greenlaker: This will be SPT’s 14th production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (BXPE)! Shana, rumor has it BXPE was the play that “saved the theater” upon its initial run in 2001. Is this true? What happened?
Shana: It is totally true! The previous Artistic Director had programmed the show but had to leave SPT when the board (which had dwindled to 3 hardy souls) couldn’t afford to pay him. SPT hadn’t weathered the transition from scrappy educational touring company to resident professional organization well – there was no real board and no strong direction and definitely no money. A lot of great dreams and aspirations, but they were in danger of dying in the fires of reality. Anyhow, I was young and hungry for opportunity, and had a strong connection to the play. When things started imploding, I asked to direct the play for no money and on no budget. We spent $300 on paint, and the 3 valiant board members somehow kept the lights on and did box office. It was community theater at its finest – an energetic, ambitious, eager ensemble who sold enough $5 and $7 tickets to raise $20,000….And voila! We had a little money and a great deal of energy and momentum to start creating a phoenix from the ashes. Seattle Public Theater exists today due to the hard work and incredible commitment – not to mention chutzpah – of those first BXPE pioneers!
Seattle Greenlaker: So Emily, how does it feel to assume the role of director for a play that is so loved and with such a long history? Any pre-production jitters?”
Emily: It’s a mixed bag of emotions. It’s scary for me because I love this play so much. This was my first professional show as an actor, and it is fitting that it is my first show on the mainstage as a director. The history doesn’t scare me though, it only makes it more exciting. Like Shakespeare. Theater is such a subjective experience. I don’t know what others are bringing with them to the theater, but I know what I brought into the rehearsal room: a love of storytelling, and a deep love and appreciation for this play that helped shape me as a theater professional.
Seattle Greenlaker: Can we expect any surprises with this production?
Emily: I hope so! When you cast a show, it’s an investment and a gamble. You never know quite what you’re going to get, but you try to imagine as many possible outcomes and potential chemistry. This is one of the strongest ensembles I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with (and also one of the largest!), which is even more striking given the difference in ages and experience levels. I have laughed through every rehearsal, until my stomach hurt and there were tears in my eyes. I have had the wind knocked out of me when an actor’s character discovery in a single line made me look at the entire play differently. Every rehearsal is a surprise. It amazes me that after all these years we can still find new ground in this play.
Seattle Greenlaker: Emily, what do you most enjoy about being director of BXPE?
Emily: Honestly, getting to work with such an amazing group of people. Everyone is invested in telling this story, and I am thankful to have been given this opportunity. I still pinch myself to make sure I’m awake. I love getting to tell stories about people being fundamentally people—the good, the bad, and the messy. Stories about family, friendship, and the mysteries of the universe.
Seattle Greenlaker: Thank you Shana and Emily! I can’t wait to see the play!
For tickets call the SPT Box Office at 206-524-1300 or visit our website at www.seattlepublictheater.org.