Gaslight Playhouse in Kendallville Presents A Christmas Story
The enduring popularity of the 1983 film A Christmas Story is undeniable and was proven this year when a sequel, also starring Peter Billingsley, was released, updating the tale of Ralphie and his friends. For those who have happily watched repeated viewings over the years, the chance to see the story up close and live is finally at hand. With this weekend’s performances of A Christmas Story hitting the stage at the Community Learning Center in Kendallville, thanks to Gaslight Playhouse, audiences can enjoy the humor and poignancy of the Parker family in a theatre setting. Directing the production is Jen Netting, a longtime veteran of stage in the area, and her devotion to the story is very personal.
“A Christmas Story was my parents’ favorite movie,” Netting said. “Dad died 15 years ago, and I just lost my mom. So it felt like a good show to be my final directing effort in the States.”
This marks her final effort because Netting, who also runs a business called Let’s Get Sconed under the umbrella of The Tattooed Cookie, has a husband and son living in England. Various issues with travel have prevented her move, but she’s taking advantage of this difficult time to participate in some final theatrical experiences, including a recent appearance in the all for One production of The Christmas Express. Juggling an acting gig in Fort Wayne with a directing gig in Kendallville was challenging to say the least.
“I was very fortunate that I had Jennifer Strong as my stage manager so it’s been the two Jens covering this show,” Netting said. “So when I had to be in Fort Wayne, she ran the rehearsals. But it was definitely a busy couple of weeks with both of those productions underway.”
As busy as it may have been – and her role in The Christmas Express was front and center – she was anxious to tackle the challenge. In fact, she got involved a few years ago, pre-pandemic, when she saw the Kendallville company was looking for volunteers.
“About three years ago I saw a Facebook post that Gaslight was looking for guest directors so I reached out and introduced myself. I liked the fact that it was bringing communities together since it was in Kendallville but was bringing in audiences from outside that area. I think it’s nice to collaborate with other communities and gives me a chance to work with new talent and bring in audiences that haven’t been to a Gaslight show before.”
Her first effort for Gaslight was Game’s Afoot, and her love of A Christmas Story has allowed her to continue to flex her directorial muscles for a very special production.
Director Jen Netting
“I’m most excited for people to see this show live,” Netting said. “Everybody knows the movie, but I’m excited for people to see it live on a stage. I’m excited about what the actors are bringing to it, and some of them have never been on a stage before. We have some non-traditional casting, and there’s not a weak character in the show. I think it’s perfectly cast, and I love seeing them working together as an ensemble.”