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The Christmas Express Pulls Into ArtsLab This Weekend

The official kickoff of the holiday season is hotly contested, with some feeling that no Christmas shall be mentioned until after Halloween. (Try telling that to Hallmark who launched their popular Countdown to Christmas on October 21.) Some are even harsher, insisting it isn’t Christmas season until after Thanksgiving. But in truth the holiday season is already underway in Fort Wayne where the local arts organizations are lining up a stellar selection of entertainment options designed to put us all in the holiday spirit.

One of the area’s first Christmas themed productions is all for One’s The Christmas Express, which promises to deliver a delightful story which should inspire all kinds of Christmas cheer. In recent years, all for One has focused more on holiday-themed programming for their November performances, and The Christmas Express should fill that niche perfectly. Artistic director Lauren Nichols and executive director Stacey Kuster knew it would be a good fit for all for One’s season.

“It’s a nice time period piece,” Nichols said. “We’re always looking for new holiday titles, and this one had a cast of 10. Stacey read it and said ‘This is nice.’ It’s not a profound piece of theatre, but it’s really a delightful story. It’s in the spirit of a Hallmark Christmas movie or a Frank Capra film. It’s whimsical, funny, and just a lot of fun.”

Touting what Nichols calls “an ensemble of very seasoned actors who are very good at developing characters,” the play features a sweet holiday story with a little bit of mystery at its heart.

“It takes place in 1955 small town America,” Nichols said. “It’s set at train depot, and the town is not thriving. Industry has passed it by, and everyone is in a slump. The whole town is dying. It’s two days before Christmas, and there are no decorations up. There’s no hope, nothing to look forward to.”

The mystery arrives in the form of a man who suddenly appears, without warning, to a train depot which hasn’t seen a train for a very long time. No one understands how this happened – which is where the fun, mystery, and (spoiler alert) holiday spirit come alive on the ArtsLab stage in Auer Center. The intimacy of that space is perfectly suited to the personal tales favored by all for One. Although the company doesn’t always present Christmas stories in their November slot (last year they presented Great Expectations), it is increasingly popular to fit in a holiday-themed message in November.

“We’ve done very well with some of our shows, especially shows like An O. Henry Christmas,” Nichols said. “But we’ve also done shows like The Family Nobody Wanted which is not specifically a Christmas story. But it does seem more and more that people do seem to gravitate toward holiday-themed plays.”

The Christmas Express pulls into the ArtsLab on November 11, and runs two weekends, with evening performances Friday and Saturday, and a matinee performance on Sunday. General admission is $22 for adults, $19 for seniors, and $15 for students. For tickets call (260) 422-4226 or visit

all for One artistic director Lauren Nichols

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