Rollicking pot of fun dished up in new Ethington play
Story by Janie Magruder
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
Perhaps these are not among your Christmas experiences:
Aunts dipping into the parsnip wine, Good King Wenceslas, reindeer, fur caps, wind-cherried noses, mittens, church bells, ice-bound boots, hand-knit tam-o’-shanters, marzipan, Snakes-and-Families, pond skating, ghosts hooting like owls, jelly babies, mistletoe, snowball fights, mince and uncles breathing like dolphins.
But they are the warmly colorful memories that Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote about in his popular poem, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” which he crafted and recorded for radio in 1952. The poem’s short-story adaptation will be performed by Grand Canyon University’s College of Fine Arts and Production for two weekends starting this Friday.
The opening weekend’s shows are sold out, but there are a smattering of seats left for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 21 and 22, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23. Additionally, tickets are available to COFAP’s special performance of “A Child’s Christmas in Wales” for Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22, in Ethington. You may have your name placed on a waiting list or buy tickets by calling the box office at 602-639-8880, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or clicking here.
“A Child’s Christmas in Wales” is an anecdotal telling of the best holiday ever through the eyes of a young child, whose name happens to be Dylan. Included are holiday scenes of family, friends and fun galore. There’s also a wild sledding episode, chaos among small children and relatives with different points of view. Sounding more familiar?
“It’s very U.K.-ish in some of the Christmas traditions — like plum pudding and ghost stories — and the lyrics for most of the songs are not from actual Christmas carols,” said guest director Scott Campbell.
The performances likely will be especially nostalgic for Campbell, a GCU alumnus (Class of ’98) who as a student acted dozens of time on the Ethington stage, including in 1996 as the father in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”
“You develop a new family in this theatre, and it’s great to be able to share that on stage,” Campbell said. “To have the opportunity to direct now and have that whole family experience with this fantastic group of students is just such a blessing.”
There are many more students studying acting these days due to COFAP’s growth and, therefore, many more talented actors from which to choose, he noted. One thing hasn’t changed: the character, ethos and work ethic of GCU’s student actors, Campbell said.
Senior Joy Flatz is cast in her 12th role on the Ethington stage as Elieri, Dylan’s “aunt” (not a blood relative — you have one of those, too, right?). As she has done with many of her characters, Flatz is drawing on the personality of someone in her own life, Aunt Rhonda Stouder.
“She can light up a room,” said Flatz, who also has that gift. “She’s the youngest and only girl in a family of boys, and she can befriend anyone.”
Juniors Taylor Kortman and Ryan Usher are double cast in the roles of Dylan and his friend, Jim. Kortman has a music background and is relatively new to the Ethington stage.
“Scott’s been pushing me to sing like I’m an 11-year-old boy,” Kortman said. “For the most part, I would consider myself a kid at heart and love playing that up.”
The story overflows with poetic language, and monologues by the character of Dylan are bound to seize the audience’s attention and hearts. To sweeten the experience, like butterwelsh on a plate of cracknel, COFAP has arranged for choirs from local high schools to sing holiday tunes on stage before each show and for cast members to carol in the Ethington lobby.
“People will leave with the early spirit of Christmas,” Campbell predicted.
And wait’ll you see the costumes and set. Click here to view photos from the cast’s first dress rehearsal.
Reach Janie Magruder at email@example.com or 602-639-8018.