Marion Art Center brings ‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ to the stage

Dec 3, 2018

MARION — A few days before opening night, Kate Fishman watched her youthful performers strut around the stage, buzzing with excitement ahead of their performance. She digested scenes of twirling angels, fiery feuds and charming Wise men — some of the highlights in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. 

Fishman, the director of this year’s play, approached Sunday night’s rehearsal with an enthusiastic professionalism. Except for the occasional pause to chuckle at some silliness from the youngest cast members, she rarely missed a beat between scenes. 

Originally a story crafted by Barbara Robinson in 1971, the production focuses on a church Christmas Pageant that is jeopardized after the misfit Herdman children take on the leading roles. 

The six siblings cuss, smoke and bully the rest of the kids at school who are repulsed by their actions. After the Herdmans learn about the free snacks at church, they decide to take over the play as well. Despite the protests of many church members, the Herdmans take the stage and turn this year’s pageant upside down. 

Those familiar with the story will know that it is told from the perspective of Beth Bradley, who narrates the mischief as it unfolds. Beth is portrayed by Molly Dupre, who tends to think of her character as “sarcastic” and “smart.”

Zoe Pateakos will also be taking the stage as Alice, a bratty girl with a fixation on Herdmans.

“Alice is your pretty classic know-it-all,” said Zoe. “She plays Mary every year in the Christmas pageant, but this year when she’s forced out of it by Imogene Herdman she’s p — —ed.”

“She knows the Herdmans are going to ruin everything and she’s mad that Imogene took her part,” she added. “So throughout the pageant she writes everything down so that everyone knows why the pageant is a mess.”

Edie Dupre, who plays Imogene, appears across from Zoe and Molly.  

“She gets what she wants, and she even threatens Alice,” said Edie. “But, by the end she’s become a different person because of the pageant and she’s not just one of the worst kids in town anymore.”

Fishman noted that the Herdman children each change over the course of the pageant, developing more as characters.

Leon Stanley, who plays Ralph Herdman, describes his character as surprisingly violent. “I chose this role because I thought it would be fun after I saw a couple of the scenes,” he said. 

Mrs. Armstrong, portrayed by Suzie Kokkins, usually directs the play every year. However, she is unable to fulfill the role after she breaks her leg and is sent to the hospital. “I don’t know how, but I suspect the Herdmans had something to do with it,” she added.

“I wanted to be in this play because I think it is a wonderful show and a wonderful way to bring the holiday spirit to our community,” said Kokkins. “We have such a fabulous cast of such young actors that are so talented.”

Shows will be held on December 7, 8, 14 and 15 beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Marion Art Center. A matinee performance will be held December 16 at 2:00 p.m.

Tickets may be purchased in person, by phone or online during regular hours. The cost will be $18 for MAC members and $20 for non-members. A limited number of tables are available for reserved parties of 4, and attendees may bring their own refreshments.