Scene & Heard, Springfield

Holiday show to illuminate complexities, joy of season

SPRINGFIELD — In a theatrical performance centering around the joys, struggles, humor, and mystery of Christmas, a local theater production will soon examine the highs and lows of the holidays — with the help of an engaging audience. 

Richard E. Wildish Community Theater will feature “Christmas Presence” from Dec. 21-23 — an ensemble of music, poetry, and stories created by a local group, Narrow Shoes Productions. 

“Who is the season for, and what does celebrating the season mean, are questions that will make experiencing the show memorable and meaningful,” said David Snider, one of the producers and actors. 

The production, Snider said, offers stories and poems, both heartfelt and humorous, of wonder and hope in the midst of the complexities of life.

Snider said the goal of the production is to be an “engaging experience that rings true for both those who have religious roots and folks for whom the season emphasizes gratitude for the joy of connecting with family and friends.” 

There will be opportunities for the audience to share their Christmas stories – both the highs and lows of the holiday – by filling out index cards that might be selected to be read during the show.

The performance features actor David Snider and his son Donovan Snider. Jeany Van Meltebeke and Martha Moultry will be singing and acting in the show. 

Notably, right before “Christmas Presence,” Van Meltebeke assisted in “Babes in Toyland” with Ballet Fantastique as the playwright of scenes between dancing and was busy acting in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Shedd. 

When asked why they created this show, Van Meltebeke, who is one of the co-producers, said, “because of my love of the arts, of my story, and my grief in seeing such division among people in the world today – especially coming back to my hometown and seeing it altered in some ways that are very troubling. 

“I am doing what I know to do, which is to offer an opportunity for people to come together,” Meltebeke said. “And by witnessing this and experiencing this together, sharing together in it, that sense of community and safety, a place to ponder and feel will foster empathy in the human race – that’s what I think theater does.”

Meanwhile, Moultry has a background singing as a soloist in choirs such as the Inspirational Sounds and the Oregon Symphony Gospel Christmas Choir in Portland. 

The cast has a wide range of acting and musical experience, promising to bring a variety of local talent to this production, which includes music by classical pianist Julianne Shepard, a classical pianist who has performed at church services, weddings, concerts, in bands and plays. She has taught piano and now attends the University of Oregon as a music student. 

Other local talent includes music by the Celtic/folk fusion trio Dréo, an ensemble made up of Eliot Grasso, Brandon Vance, and Glen Waddell, who create a fusion of new and old music with their musical backgrounds of Scottish and Irish influences. 

Grasso has an impressive background of performing for President Clinton at the NEA Awards and being featured on “Prairie Home Companion.” At age 14, Vance made history as the youngest fiddler to win the U.S. National Scottish Fiddle Championship. Waddell grew up immersed in the music of his Scottish immigrant family in Canada.

“I decided to get involved in the show because I really appreciate (the producers’) vision to bring audiences into contact with the wonders and complexities of Christmas,” said Grasso, who is the musical director and co-producer. “I value honest presentations of the human condition. It’s a season responding to a set of historical circumstances that impacted many people of the past and continue to do so today.”

For more info about the show, and to purchase tickets:

Sarina Dorie is the arts columnist for The Chronicle. 



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