Whidbey Playhouse celebrates Christmas in Wales

At Christmas, magical memories of childhood live again, and Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, played by Oak Harbor High School choir director Darren McCoy, brings out the child in everyone through his nostalgic, amusing and musical Christmas memories. From cheek-pinching aunts to adventures in the snowy park, a child’s imagination comes to life with rich poetry and songs in the Whidbey Playhouse presentation of  “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”

With poetic memories of snow and his home by the sea in Wales, Thomas relives a culmination of his childhood Christmases in one day. Based on the Welsh poet’s radio play, the images Thomas creates with words bring the story to life in a unique way: the sound of treading on snow-covered grass was like “ghosts on dried toast” and they were “making ghosts with their breath” in the cold air. Brought to life by McCoy, convincing as an adventurous 12-year-old, Thomas’ memories of stalking “pale-faces” in the snowy park with a water gun and enduring a unique cast of family members for Christmas dinner are heartwarming and hilarious by turn.

The audience will recognize popular Christmas songs, despite amusing changes to the lyrics, plus Welsh songs and traditions.

“It gives the Oak Harbor community the chance to see what Christmas is like in another country and a long time ago; this happened in the 1920s,” said director Cynthia Kleppang.

New to this production is a question and answer session to be held after each show. Actors will take questions from the audience for a behind-the-scenes look into the performance.

This production is a series of firsts, with Kleppang as a first-time director at the Playhouse, Julie Langrock as a first-time assistant director, Tara Hizon as a first-time producer and McCoy taking the lead role for the first time. This is the first time anyone in the directorial crew has worked on such a large production, with a cast of 23 and many members pulling double-duty as musicians and stage crew, Hizon said.

“Needless to say, it’s been a group effort that truly defines the essence of what community theater is all about. The finished product is something we are extremely proud of,” Hizon said.

“One thing that I’m particularly proud of is that this has become a cooperative effort between the Whidbey Playhouse and Oak Harbor High School,” Kleppang said.

Along with McCoy, the production features eight high schools students, including Katie McClimans as cousin Brenda. McClimans just finished working on “Meet Me in St. Louis,” her first show at the Playhouse.

Several other actors also starred in “Meet Me in St. Louis,” which finished one and one-half weeks before opening night for “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”

McCoy starred in “Meet Me in St. Louis” as Warren Sheffield, a man in his early 30s pursuing his love interest, while learning his lines for this play, in which he acts the part of a 12-year-old.

“I would act like a 12-year-old when I’m supposed to be proposing to the love of my life,” McCoy said with a laugh.

McCoy said he’s used to directing at the high school so acting at the Playhouse shows him the other side of the coin.

“I think that it’s great to see this community support the arts. I hope that my students realize that there’s music outside of the schools. Music doesn’t end when you graduate. The performing arts teach you everything you need to know to be successful in life,” McCoy said.

The production also features community members in the military. Nate Edminston, playing the roles of head bully and fireman, is active-duty military and has helped at the Playhouse over the past 10 years.

“I found that the theater is a good way to give back to the community,” Edminston said, adding that it’s a nice break after working with the military all day.

The diverse group of actors also includes Donna Trontvet, playing Aunt Bessie, who hasn’t been in a play for 25 years.

“It’s been awesome, a lot of fun and a challenge to get back into it,” Trontvet said.

“You become a family,” Trontvet added, a sentiment repeated by several of the actors.

And that family is always looking for new members.

“If you have any interest in theater, the Playhouse is always looking for volunteers,” Kleppang said. Volunteers don’t have to act; they can paint sets, create costumes, look for props or join the technical crew.

With all the firsts in this show, the Playhouse “is always open to people who are wanting to try anything,” Kleppang said.



Enjoy the Christmas experience

Showings run through Dec. 18.

Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday matinees are at 2:30 p.m.

Stay after the show for Q & A sessions with the actors.

Tickets cost $12 and are available by calling 679-2237.

The Whidbey Playhouse is located at 730 SE Midway Blvd., Oak Harbor.


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