The holidays bring out the sentimental side in all of us. As the air turns cooler and the days become shorter, I turn into an emotional mess when I relive special moments with my family. Many of these moments and memories include a Huntsville tradition: Fantasy Playhouse Children’s Theater’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol”.
In 1999, my ten year old sister got involved in local theatre. Since we were all members of the Katie Broad fan club, my parents, other sisters and I all found ways to be a part of the exciting things she was doing onstage. I started with putting makeup on a whole bunch of gingerbread kids for a Huntsville Community Children’s Chorus production of “Hansel & Gretel” while Katie sang her heart out in front of the curtains.
The next year, though, the acting bug bit me too. I auditioned alongside my best friend Megan for a Fantasy production and we were both cast. It was a blast, and I was hooked. That same year, I was cast as Martha Cratchit in “A Christmas Carol” and a tradition was born. My entire family – Mom, Dad, sisters and all – were backstage or onstage, and it was the way we began our holiday season.
The Family That Plays Together…
Fifteen years later, we are still heavily involved in this Huntsville tradition. This year, my husband Jeff is directing the show for the third time; my Dad is Technical Director (that means he’s in charge of the set, lights, sound and special effects all working together) and my Mom is Head Costumer, both of them having served in these roles for over a decade; and Jeff and I have kids of our own that are part of the production, acting or working backstage.
We’ve found that theatre can be hard to explain to “outsiders”. Not everyone understands why we would want to add stress to an already full holiday schedule (Jeff is a photographer, so…) or dedicate two whole weeks to being at the theatre every night. We have friends who just don’t “get” it. And I’m not sure how to describe the feeling of working on a show with your family. The best way I can is to say it’s like playing a team sport, except your team wins every night.
The “team” at Fantasy is made up of many families just like mine. In this production of “A Christmas Carol”, Corbin Holland is playing Bob Cratchit, and his three talented kids are in the cast too. Tiny Tim’s real-life father is the Toy Vendor. Caroler Kristy Parker and her Fezziwig hubby Wayne are the proud parents of a bunch of cute kiddos, also in the show. And this isn’t all of them! I could go on and on naming the individual families that come together to form the Fantasy family.
These families give back through their work with Fantasy because they recognize the important roles theatre and dance play in the development of a child. From exploring movement and strengthening motor skills to self-knowledge, empowerment and awareness, the performing arts are vital in the lives of our three older kids, and our 15-month old is already benefitting, too. Our kids are more confident and better team players because of theatre; they make friends easily, are in tune with their emotions and entertain us constantly. I attribute these traits and many others in large part to their involvement in the performing arts. Thankfully, Huntsville is full of these opportunities year-round, not just during the holiday season, but productions like “A Christmas Carol” are the perfect way to introduce your kids to the magic of theatre.
Hopefully, I’ve explained just the surface of why theatre – and especially “A Christmas Carol” and other holiday productions – are important to our family. We hope YOUR family will come be a part of this Huntsville tradition when the show takes the stage each December in the Von Braun Center Playhouse. It’s a fantastic way for the whole family – whether onstage, behind the scenes or in the audience – to celebrate the most wonderful time of year!