Whitehall-Coplay Press

Sunday, October 21, 2018
PRESS PHOTOS BY SUSAN BRYANT Natalie Sampsell as Grace Bradley and Avery Masenheimer as Gladys Herdman rehearse a scene from PRESS PHOTOS BY SUSAN BRYANT Natalie Sampsell as Grace Bradley and Avery Masenheimer as Gladys Herdman rehearse a scene from "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." The play will be presented 7 p.m. Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1, 6, 7 and 8; and 2 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8 at Living Hope Presbyterian Church, 330 Schantz Road, Lower Macungie Township.
Laurel Strickland and Jacob Diem as Beth and Charlie Bradley respectively, rehearse their lines Nov. 20. Laurel Strickland and Jacob Diem as Beth and Charlie Bradley respectively, rehearse their lines Nov. 20.
Jacob Diem as Charlie Bradley, and Thomas Buonanno as Leroy Herdman, practice their lines from Jacob Diem as Charlie Bradley, and Thomas Buonanno as Leroy Herdman, practice their lines from "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."
Actors with Players of the Stage rehearse the fire scene Actors with Players of the Stage rehearse the fire scene "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."
Madeline Hoffman, as Imogene Herdman, practices her lines during Nov. 20 rehearsal. Madeline Hoffman, as Imogene Herdman, practices her lines during Nov. 20 rehearsal.

Players present 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

Thursday, November 29, 2012 by SUSAN BRYANT sbryant@tnonline.com in Opinion

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," a one-act show, is being presented by local Christian theater group, Players of the Stage.

Based on Barbara Robinson's work of the same name, the play tells the story of six delinquent children who go to church for the first time after being told there will be snacks served. Despite protests from church members, the youngsters are given roles in the Sunday School's Christmas play.

Laurel Strickland portrays Beth Bradley. Natalie Sampsell plays Grace Bradley.

"Beth is a 10- to 11-year-old school girl," Strickland said. "She does not want the Herdmans in the pageant after her father, Bob Bradley, played by David Sampsell, tells her about how messy they are."

Strickland said her character eventually realizes the Herdman family is doing exactly what may have happened in the pageant.

"I love playing Beth," she said. "I wanted to be Beth ever since I heard they [Players] were doing 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever' again."

Strickland said she has a little bit more range in playing her character.

"I really hope people will learn Jesus extends his love to everyone," Strickland said.

Sampsell said her character, Grace, is the director of the play.

"She really does not want to do it," Sampsell said, adding when the Herdman children come, her character has to deal with them.

"She is just trying to prove to everyone she can do it with the Herdmans and make it good," Sampsell said, adding playing Grace is interesting because she is older.

"It is hard to play her from that stand point," she said. "Being in the play is really fun and a great experience."

Thomas Buonanno plays Leroy Herdman. His character is one of the bullies, Buonanno said.

"He enjoys making peoples lives miserable by punching them for no reason or stealing from other people," Buonanno said. "I [Leroy Herdman] am loyal to my siblings. Other times I just push them around."

This is Buonanno's third time performing in this particular play.

"First time, I was an added character, Fred," Buonanno said. "The second time, I was Charlie and now I'm Leroy."

Portraying Leroy is different from playing Charlie because he presents a completely different side of the story, he said.

Madeline Hoffman portrays Imogene Herdman. Hoffman said her character is pretty much punk, mean and angry all the time.

"It is the first time I have had to play someone mean," Hoffman said. "It has been interesting playing someone mean with an attitude."

She said it has been fun working out the characterization.

"I like how we are doing the play for God's word," Hoffman said. "It is neat that we are doing it for a charity."

The play is directed by Sharon Barshinger Gerdes.

"The play is about a church in a small town that is trying to put on a Christmas pageant and this family of bullies comes and takes over," Gerdes said. "So, then the play is about the Herdmans figuring out what Christmas is about and the church folks rediscovering how Jesus can reach people who are beyond grace."

Gerdes said the play originally took place in the 1950s.

"But we are making it in the present day to make it more applicable to our audiences," she said.

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" will be performed 7 p.m. Nov. 29, 30 and Dec. 1, 6, 7 and 8; and 2 p.m. Dec. 1 and 8.

All performances will be at Living Hope Presbyterian Church, 330 Schantz Road, Lower Macungie Township.

Tickets for the performances are free, but reservations are required.

A freewill offering will be taken to benefit the Allentown Rescue Mission, which provides programs to men facing the challenges of homelessness.

For tickets or more information, contact Beth Barshinger at 610-923-6742 or email potstickets@gmail.com.

For information about Players of the Stage, visit playersofthestage.com.