Dayton Playhouse presents virtual ‘One Christmas Eve’

(left to right) Lynn Jensen (Robin), Jenny Westfall (Abbie) and Amy Askins (JoEllen) are featured in the Dayton Playhouse's virtual production of "One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall," slated for streaming Dec. 9-23.
Caption
(left to right) Lynn Jensen (Robin), Jenny Westfall (Abbie) and Amy Askins (JoEllen) are featured in the Dayton Playhouse's virtual production of "One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall," slated for streaming Dec. 9-23.

Credit: CONTRIBUTING

Credit: CONTRIBUTING

Family-friendly holiday play will be streamed Dec. 9-23

The Dayton Playhouse’s holiday production of “One Christmas Eve at Evergreen Mall” will be streamed Dec. 9-23. The feel-good dramedy was written by Lynne Halliday, James Hindman, Arlene Hutton and Craig Pospisil.

A family-friendly tale of the joys and sorrows of the Christmas season, the play concerns eight intertwined stories inside a Midwestern shopping mall. Colorful characters include a lovesick mall Santa, an overeager mall cop and a pair of newlyweds.

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“This streaming business is new to us,” said director Brian Sharp. “This will not be a movie or television show, but rather a video of the play being produced on stage. We all miss being in the theater and bringing the arts to our community. We hope this production will warm your heart and entertain you at the same time.”

“(The play) is a sweet, funny and, at times, touching collection of scenes,” echoed Amy Askins, who portrays JoEllen, a recently separated mom shopping with her daughter who is home from college and just learned of her parents’ breakup. “Both characters are coping with this new reality and there is a little plot twist which unexpectedly lightens (the situation). I was grateful for the opportunity to dip my toe in live performance again and to reconnect with some dear friends from the theater community.”

Askins, whose previous Playhouse credits include “Nunsense” and “Xanadu,” enjoyed Sharp’s rehearsal process consisting of Zoom rehearsals followed by a few masked in-person rehearsals and the final filming.

“The first unmasked run was on camera, but the entire process felt safe, uplifting and necessary,” she said. “Human connection is vital and while I understand the need for masks and social distancing, I do have concern about decreased emotional well-being and anxiety caused by lack of social connection during this pandemic. The fact that Brian cast so many different actors was great because a lot of people were able to participate safely as each scene only consists of two to four people.”

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“We’ve used more than 20 local actors for a couple of reasons,” Sharp explained. “First, to protect people during the pandemic, and secondly, to get as many people doing live theater again as possible.”

The cast includes Mandy Bridgeford as Sharon, Chloe Chicarelli as Ellie, Michael Fisher as RJ, Jenna Gomes as Jenny, Sarah Gomes as Taylor, Samuel Hamilton as Todd, Becky Howard as Darla, Lynn Jensen as Robin, Adonis Lemke as Robert, Cathy Long as Bell Ringer, Sean Mayo as Gerald, Ron Maurer as Stephen, Kelli Mevers as Molly, Matt Poliachik as Terry, Annie Sayers as Lacey, Cynthia Schindler as Felicia, Mark Sharp as Andy, Dakota Spicer as Matthew, Lynn Vanderpool as Erin, Janet Wasson as Linda, and Jenny Westfall as Abbie.

“Being a part of this show positively reaffirms why many of us are a part of theater,” said Hamilton, outstanding last season as Dill Harris in the Playhouse’s Midwest premiere of Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” “I feel blessed to be part of a process and product that is larger than myself. Sharing our talents with others is what makes all of this worthwhile.”

As an associate Playhouse board member, the Chicago-based Hamilton also embraces the virtual format as a meaningful outlet for connection.

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“Being a part of this work has reminded me of the amazing potential we all can produce as volunteers for our fans in different formats,” he said. “I look so forward to the offerings in the 2021-2022 season at the Playhouse. For now, I am very appreciative of all content that is being safely produced where actors and the audience can be brought together even if not in person. I genuinely care for our patrons and feel that offering a performance in a safe augmented way offers an ability for us to maintain our connection as we share the joy of theatre with them.”

In addition, Sharp says the production’s set design is a combination of video projections and set dressing pieces.

“We have produced this with virtually no expense, other than rights, to the Playhouse,” he said. “We’re hoping this show will be a money maker for the theatre during this time of closure.”

Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for seniors, students and military. The link to purchase and more information can be found online at thedaytonplayhouse.com.

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