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Catch The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in Unique Setting at First Presbyterian




For the last few seasons, First Presbyterian Theater has deferred to their friends at Fort Wayne Youtheatre at the holiday season. Since the two began sharing the lovely First Pres stage a few years ago – fulltime in the last two seasons or so – Youtheatre has brought the popular A Charlie Brown Christmas, Elf, Jr., and, again this year, Frozen, Jr. to the church’s theatre. The collaboration has benefited both organizations, particularly since the arrival last year of FPT’s new executive director, Todd Sandman-Cruz.

“It’s been great working together,” Sandman-Cruz said. “It’s a great space for kids, and it seats plenty of folks but has an intimate feel.”

But this year both First Pres and Youtheatre are producing holiday shows – both at First Presbyterian and on the same dates – without any conflict. How? Fort Wayne Youtheatre is using the theatre while First Presbyterian’s production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever in the sanctuary, something that had its origins before Sandman-Cruz was hired to his current position.

“The seed began during the interview process for this position,” he said. “Reverend Epling asked ‘How can we use the church more, bring the theatre to the sanctuary and bring the church to the theatre? What kind of crossover could happen?’ And I said ‘We could bring Best Christmas Pageant to the sanctuary.’ I never thought they’d go for it.”



But they did, and the plan has worked out perfectly, especially given the fact that the play itself takes place at a church. And since the show runs under and hour, Sandman-Cruz is bringing in a variety of guest performers to provide music and entertainment to the audience before the show at each show, providing a different experience for each audience. The plan has also allowed two productions to share the space even during rehearsals.

“We’ve been able to rehearse in the sanctuary from the beginning since no one is there on weeknights,” Sandman-Cruz said. “The staging is a little tricky since we’re working with little kids so we need to make sure they can be seen. We had a fair amount of lighting and sound work to do, especially with how many of the little kids needed to be mic’d. But it’s a great space for singing. There have been a few changes to the staging to make the space work. There are scenes that take place at the family home while they’re eating a meal. How do we do that in the church? We decided to simply have the family in their car, eating KFC, as they’re driving to the church.”

That shift in locale is likely familiar to many of the theatre families involved in the production, which did find entire families auditioning and being cast. With a cast of 25 – and many children ages 6-15 – The Best Christmas Pageant Ever will bring the spirit of the season and the setting for many celebrations together in a unique way.

The production runs December 9-18. Tickets $18 for adults, $12 for students. Purchase tickets and view showtimes at artstix.org.



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