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A christmas story

November 07, 2002|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

The ghost of Christmas past will come to life tonight, this weekend and next on the stage of the Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg, Pa.

No, it's not Scrooge's 19th-century English spook.

It's the all-American Christmas spirit of 1940s northern Indiana as told in "A Christmas Story," the play based on the memoirs of Jean Shepherd.

The 1983 film of the same name and story has become a staple of holiday television viewing - shown for several years all day on Christmas day. TNT will broadcast "24 Hours of 'A Christmas Story" from 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 24, through 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 25.

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"People that come that love the movie will be happy because it's pretty much the same thing," says Paul Keifman, who is directing the Chambersburg Community Theatre production.

"A Christmas Story," the play written by Philip Grecian, tells Shepherd's story of 9-year-old Ralphie Parker and his Christmas wish for a BB gun. Ralphie doesn't want just any BB gun. He wants the Red Ryder 200-Shot Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle, the BB gun of his dreams.

"You'll shoot your eye out," is the automatic response of adults, especially Ralphie's parents, Mother and The Old Man.

The cast has been rehearsing for the past couple of months, but not until last Sunday did they work with a set and props.

Stage Manager Deelana Kennedy, backstage and holding a flashlight to follow the script for the many scene changes, calls it "organized chaos" at a recent rehearsal.

"It's a lot of work, but a lot of fun," she says.

There's always "such a letdown," when the show is over, says props mistress Jan Weagly.

The cast and crew are dedicated to the spirit of community theater. Vicki Gontz, who plays Miss Shields, Ralphie's teacher, has been part of CCT for about 12 years - writing and producing as well as appearing on stage.

"That's what community theater is. You can't just want to perform," she says.

She doubles as costume mistress for "A Christmas Story," even though she doesn't sew. She's working on Ralphie's bunny suit, a misguided gift from a distant aunt, and she's been padding the snowsuit of little brother Randy Parker.

Young Randy, a picky eater who's a bit of a crybaby, is played by Daniel Bricker, 10. He enjoys the film. "My dad and I look forward to seeing the movie every year," says the mittened and snow-suited St. Thomas Elementary School fifth-grader between entrances. He also likes the play. "It's fun. It's funny," he says.

His fellow young actors also are enjoying being in "A Christmas Story."

"Everything except for the way the pole tastes," says 12-year-old Sean Hallock, who portrays Ralphie's friend Flick. Flick has the unfortunate experience of accepting a "double-dog dare" to stick his tongue on a frozen metal pole.

James Paul, a sixth-grade student at Chambersburg Area Middle School, has gotten to the heart of his character, bully Scut Farkas. He's really mean and is a bully because he's afraid, says James, 11.

Colin Cook, 12, a CAMS seventh-grader, has acted before and says he tries out for every play he can.

Colin plays Ralphie Parker and says he's kind of like his character - "except for the big dorky glasses."

When he was a little kid, Colin had his own Christmas sights set on something special. No, not a BB gun, but a yo-yo, he says.

Alan Cook, Colin's real life dad, plays a grown-up Ralphie, framing the action through on-stage narration.

Scott Cairns portrays The Old Man. His characteristic blustering tirades at his coal-furnace "clinkers" and the neighbors marauding hounds are partially scripted, partially made up, Cairns says. He has to be careful to make what's supposed to sound like profanity unprofane.

He's owned "In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash," a collection of Shepherd's stories, for about five years. "My kids think I am The Old Man - even before the play," he says.

Lisa Henschel, who plays Mother, has been involved in other CCT productions. She says she likes "dressing up and being somebody else."

Like his fellow cast members, Cairns, an accounting professor at Shippensburg University, has a busy life outside community theater.

"It's just nice to come out and get away," he says. "In some ways it's a stress reducer," he adds. "That is part of what we like about the play."

That principle can work for audiences, too.

"A Christmas Story," a fond and funny look back, can provide a nice kickoff to the Christmas yet to come.




If you go


"A Christmas Story"

Tonight, Fridays, Nov. 8 and 15, and Saturdays Nov. 9 and 16, 8 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 10, 2 p.m.

Capitol Theatre

159 S. Main St.

Chambersburg, Pa.

Tickets cost $11 for adults, $10 for senior citizens 60 and older and $8 for children and students.

Call, 1-717-263-0202.

Chambersburg Community Theatre Inc. will raffle off the "leg lamp," a prop in its production of "A Christmas Story."

Built by show director Paul Keifman, the lamp is a female leg in fish-net stocking and high-heeled shoe with a fringed lamp shade.

In the play, The Old Man wins the lamp in one of his oft-entered contests. He is thrilled with the "fragile" prize, pronouncing it "fra-ji-lay" and deciding his "major award" must be imported "all the way from Italy."

Raffle tickets will be sold in the lobby of the theater on show dates only and cost $1 each. The drawing will be Saturday, Nov. 16, the final night of the production.

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