'Best Christmas Pageant Ever' offers laughs, an education

By Clint Cooper Article posted on Thu. Dec. 13th, 2012
IF YOU GO

• What: "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

• When: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14; 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15; 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.

• Where: Mountain Arts Community Center, 809 Kentucky Ave., Signal Mountain.

• Admission: $5.

• Phone: 886-1959.

When the ruffled, dirty, boisterous Herdman children disrupt the Christmas pageant, a new low appears in reach for the annual church tradition.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," a family comedy that incorporates the aforementioned situation, will be presented Friday through Sunday, Dec. 14-16, at the Mountain Arts Community Center on Signal Mountain.

Director Colleen Laliberte says the production, based on a 1971 book by Barbara Robinson, will have all the laughs generally associated with the show in which the Herdmans wind up telling the Christmas story in unconventional fashion.

"It's one of those Christmas shows I want to bring back every year," she says. "It's one of my favorite plays. I love the message. It's well-written, fun and humorous."

However, Laliberte hopes to provide a little education along with the play.

"While the play is full of lots of humor," she says, "there's more going on [with the Herdmans] than meets the eye."

The children come in unkempt, hungry and mention in passing the Child Welfare League visiting their house.

Perhaps, Laliberte says, the family is living in poverty or is close to being homeless.

With that in mind, she has elicited Mary Ellen Galloway of Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga to discuss in a nightly talk-back with the audience the aims of her organization, how families unintentionally wind up homeless and how such a scenario might play out in the lives of affected children.

Family Promise is a nonprofit organization that helps families in need find jobs, housing, a better life and a return to self-sufficiency.

Laliberte says the characters of Mary and Joseph in the Christmas story, two people called "refugees" in Robinson's story, are not unlike the Herdmans, who are somewhat like refugees in the church.

"Any opportunity to raise awareness is a step in the right direction," she says. "You can't effect change unless you give information."

Information, Laliberte says, can change hearts and result in a call to action.

The Mountain Arts Community Center play has a cast of 37.

Patrons are asked to check the Needs List on the Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga website (familypromisechattanooga.com) and consider bringing an item when they attend. Half of the proceeds of tickets prices for the final show also will be given to the organization.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at ccooper@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.

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