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Show brings together religious and secular Christmas traditions

December 27, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- Many call the account of Jesus' birth a story, much like the tales of Rudolph and Santa Claus, but for two days, The Living Room in Martinsburg hoped to turn the story into an audio, visual and emotional experience.

An annual Christmas production at The Living Room, "A Christmas Experience" is a musical and theatrical portrayal of religious and secular Christmas traditions that focuses on the common thread between both: faith.

"We wrap the traditions of Christmas up in a neat package by marrying the fun and the truth of Christmas into an experience," said Pastor Kevin Green.

Since premiering the production three years ago, it has become a well-oiled machine, said co-creator and Pastor Beth Green.

At the core of the production's message, which has remained the same from year to year, is the Christian faith and its humble origins, she said.

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Each year, however, the production team addresses a theme surrounding that message.

This year, the theme was "from age to age," said Director Josh Jordan.

He explained that each Christmas, the production team seeks to present the Christian message of Christmas from a new angle. This year it focused on how faith endures between the secular and religious celebrations of the holiday.

Despite opening after Dec. 25 due to heavy snow Dec. 18 and 19, the production's message still was relevant after presents were opened, Kevin Green said.

For many people, the holiday is a time of stress, he said. Focused on purchasing presents, baking, entertaining and still finding time to work, Americans embrace the commercial side of Christmas and often forget what is being celebrated, he said.

"Christmas often reminds us of how busy our world is as it spins so fast, but we wanted to bring back into focus the things that are there from age to age: faith, hope and love," he said.

While the production was performed for the community, it was truly a gift to the more than 150 cast and crew members who spent three months working to bring it together.

"It is way better to give than to receive," said Beth Green. "The blessing we get from putting this on far surpasses the blessing of watching from the audience."

"It made me become more selfless and remember, especially at Christmas, to give the glory to him (Jesus)," said Katy Mong, who portrayed the virgin Mary. "It's not about me; he (Jesus) is the star of this show."

"It's hard to put into words, but when you can look out and see this many people enjoying something like this, it truly is a blessing to know you were a part of something significant," Jordan said.

"Every year we do this, we grow closer together, like intricate parts of a body, totally dependent on one another," said Lindsay DeGraw, who portrayed Suzy Snowflake.

The Living Room charged $7 to $14 for admission, which marketing and promotions leader Mary Beth Blair said was to cover the cost of the multifaceted production.

The two-hour production involved a live recording, sets and costumes.

Charging admission did not keep audiences away, however. All four of the shows were either packed or sold out, Kevin Green said.

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