Stage productions provide holiday cheer
by James Phillips
Dec 15, 2010 | 1141 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Phillips
James Phillips
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Being in a Christmas play was always a highlight of the season during my childhood.

Throughout my youth, my family and I attended Dilworth Church of God in the Dilworth community in east Walker County. Each year, the church, like most others, would have a variety of Christmas programs, typically one featuring adults, one featuring teens and one featuring the children of the church.

If my memory serves me correctly, my most frequent role was as a wise man. One year, two friends and I, played a merry trio of rapping wise men. I don't remember exactly why the magi were rappers, but I got rave reviews for sounding like Dr. Dre.

Another strange role I remember from a Christmas play was the time I played a bear. I don't remember the story line of the play, so I have no idea how a bear entered into the Christmas story.

Last year, my children got their first taste of acting during the holiday season. Stone and Breeze both performed in the Athletic Arts Center's production of "The Nutcracker." Stone played a toy soldier, while Breeze was a sneaky mouse. They both did such a great job and had so much fun performing that we decided to be a part of the production again this year with two new family members joining the cast -- Daisy and myself.

For this year's performance, Stone is reprising his role of soldier, while Breeze has moved into the Land of the Sweets as a Ginger Snap. Daisy will be playing a Bon-Bon, which is a character in the same scene as my character of Mother Ginger.

Mother Ginger?

You read that correctly. I'm Mother Ginger.

The character shows up in the second act and is typically a very tall "woman" with a huge skirt. The Bon-Bons are her children who usually dash out from her skirt and dance around the stage.

We've been practicing for "The Nutcracker" for several months now, but I had not officially become Mother Ginger until a couple of weeks ago when we did cast photos.

I didn't think much about it. I would put on the makeup, wig and costume and get my photograph taken with the four children playing Bon-Bons. It wasn't that simple. I'm afraid some of the children may be traumatized for life now.

When I entered the room for the photos, one of the children began screaming. I'm not talking about one screaming. It was a continuous scream that included her wildly kicking her legs as her father picked her up to console her. The screaming continued until I left the room.

For the short time that I was in the room with the Bon-Bons, I had a chance to glance at my 3-year-old Daisy. She even looked terrified.

A few days later, I saw the photos of myself, and it's easy to see why these children were scared. I looked like Dee Snider, the lead singer of the '80s rock band Twisted Sister.

In many Nutcracker performances, Mother Ginger isn't mobile. The character is on a pedestal and wheeled on stage. That's not the case with my version of the character. I will have the huge dress and wig, but I will be moving along the stage in a hopefully somewhat graceful fashion. I have a few dance moves, and I'm sure all of Walker County will get a kick out of it.

In case you are wondering, Mother Ginger is usually played by a male. Just this past weekend, CBS 42 sports personality Jim Dunnaway played the role in Birmingham.

"The Nutcracker" is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. at Rowland Auditorium on the Jasper campus of Bevill State Community College. Tickets are $10 and are available at the door.

My role is sheer comic relief, because there are some extremely talented local dancers in the play. It was a great show last year, and this year it is even bigger and better. I urge everyone to come out and support this local performance. I promise you'll be entertained and get at least one laugh.

James Phillips is managing editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He can be reached at 205-221-2840 or james.phillips@mountaineagle.com.