Community Theater Comes to Nelsonville

Posted on:

< < Back to

By Nick Rees

For three days, the ABC Players or the Athenian Berean Community Players performed the "Best Christmas Pageant Ever".

The location of the production was Stuart’s Opera House, a historical venue found in the public square of downtown Nelsonville.

Based upon a book originally published in 1971 and written by Barbara Robinson, the story centers on the Herdman family.

The Herdmans have six delinquent children who are known for the havoc they create, whether bullying, lying or stealing from others; they’re bad news.  When they are all cast in the church’s nativity play, their calloused demeanors begin to fall away.

As with many children’s stories, the characters change their ways and start down a road of redemption.  By participating in the nativity play, the Herdman family learns the meaning of Christmas and teaches the community a little something as well.

Told with humor and feisty antics, “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” offered a meaningful show the entire family could enjoy.

Lessons of forgiveness and redemption can never come too early.

With a large cast of 30 including many school-aged children, the ABC Players were able to present a full-scale show to an enthusiastic audience.

“We had a wonderful response. We usually do when we get children involved in the play, and it’s so important to introduce the arts to children," said Rita Preston, a member of the ABC Players

A cast member of the ABC Players previous production, “Death by Chocolate,” Preston is familiar with the extensive rehearsal schedules and hard work put into each show.

She is a newer member of the company, but has always wanted to participate in theater. Preston’s chance came once she retired. 

She played the part of Bobbi Sue in “Death by Chocolate” and has volunteered at this show to sell raffle tickets.

Performer Lee Carter played the character of Mrs. Bradley in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, the woman with the difficult role of directing the nativity play.

"Theater itself is such a platform for many things that I think it’s wonderful when kids get the opportunity to get involved in community theater," said Carter.

"(The audition process) was very relaxed. They make you feel very comfortable,” said Carter in reference to the production's casting.

Without anxiety or too much competition, the cast was selected from a two day casting call.

Carter had even more praise for the idea of community theater, including the fact that families similar to hers have the opportunity to perform together.

Rehearsing four days a week since October, Carter isn’t alone in wishing the show was continuing for a while longer.

Jodi MacNeal, the director of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever”, loved the experience.

"Sometimes it’s easier to work with the kids than the adults. They’re so willing to try anything," said MacNeal about her child actors.

MacNeal sees a future for a kid’s club or children’s theater in Nelsonville due to the response she and the ABC players got from this production.

With seven dollars as the price for admission, the inexpensive tickets allowed many to attend the show without breaking the bank.

All the proceeds from ticket and raffle sales will be going toward the future renovations of Stuart’s Opera House.

Built in the 19th century, the Opera House has spent many of its years empty and abandoned.  It reopened in 1997, and has since become a premiere concert and performance venue for Southeastern Ohio. More history regarding Stuart’s Opera House can be found at its homepage:

The final performance of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” marked the end of the ABC Players’ season.

The company will take a brief break before rehearsal for its next production begins in early 2014.

For more information about upcoming shows from the ABC Players, visit the company's website.

Without Route 33 snaking through, Nelsonville has lost some business but its community hasn’t lost any spirit.

The revival of the arts scene in downtown is well under way and will continue to grow further.