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Not a cliche, but a play: Tis The Season

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By Becca Owsley

bowsley@thenewsenterprise.com
Hardin County Playhouse gets into the holiday spirit this weekend with its production of “Tis the Season.”
But this isn’t an ordinary play. It was written by cast members who are sharing stories about their memories and feelings about the holidays.
“The show is about strangers coming together to create a special holiday even in the midst of less-than-perfect surroundings,” HCP Director Bo Cecil said. “Even though the anecdotes are specific to the individual actor, there are universal qualities in each story and the hope of the show is that audiences will walk away feeling as though their own lives have been honored onstage.”
Cast members faced the challenge of not only writing the play but also portraying those memories onstage.
“Because we have written this show, we are actually playing ourselves, which turns out to be tougher than you might expect,” Jeff Corkran said.
In most scripts, characters already are created and cast members develop them, Corkran said. For this play, actors must create theatrical versions of themselves.
Because each story is a personal experiences it can relate to the emotions involved; however, the key is not to relive memories and get caught up in the emotions, Corkran said.
Kerrie Lewis finds it difficult to portray herself on stage. It’s more vulnerable, she said, not like getting in and out of character.
“It has been fascinating to see (the play) grow from a random collection of memories to a very cohesive story line that takes a life of its own in its performance,” Lewis said.
The most difficult part for Lewis was realizing how many holiday memories revolved around mothers. When writing began, Lewis’ mother was in a nursing home. When rehearsals started, she had passed away.
“It was much harder to bring those stories to mind and certainly to speak them aloud because of losing her,” Lewis said. “It is also therapeutic and seems an appropriate tribute to her memory, as well as to the memory of my father.”
Personal memories are what drive this production.
“The difficult part is making the stories real enough that our audiences feel like they have experienced them so they can identify with them,” Corkran said.
The stories will be familiar to others because they are experiences most people go through, but the actors have to make them seem real to the audience, Corkran said.
Carrie Rhea enjoyed having space to be as candid or honest as she could be, not editing herself during the writing process.
“Some Holiday memories aren’t pleasant,” Rhea said. “Being able to show all aspects of the holidays, not just the happy ones, was a great outlet for me.”
Writing and acting out such personal stories is scarier for Rhea than other shows. She has expressed deeper, more emotional memories than she would share in regular conversation.
When Moira Taylor first went to the writing workshops she thought of a few stories she was sure she wanted to write about. But the writing prompts Cecil used to help jump start the writing process brought up completely different stories that she hadn’t remembered before she began.
It has been a special experience for Taylor as she got to know the people she shares the stage with.
“I have learned more about these actors than I probably would have if this had not been an original production,” she said. “It is very cool to know that this production is completely our creation and very unique, just like each one of us.”
Corey Miller finds a lot of satisfaction in seeing the production go from “pencil to stage” and share a part of the cast members’ lives with the audience.
Miller hopes the audience members not only have fun but know they are not alone when it comes to traditions and crazy holiday times.
Because of the personal nature of the play, Taylor wants audience members to feel like they are right there with them, sharing their stories. Her hope is that they come away with their own memories of the holidays and the play gets them in the mood to celebrate with family and friends.
The show for Rhea illustrates that the holidays bring out more similarities than differences.
“No matter how different we seem on the outside — friend or stranger — inside there is common ground among us all, especially around the holidays,” Rhea said.
“Tis the Season” begins tomorrow and runs through next weekend at Plum Alley Theater in the Historic State Theater complex.
Becca Owsley can be reached at (270) 505-1741.

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If you go:
"Tis the Season" will show at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday, 8 p.m. Dec. 9-11 and 3 p.m. Dec. 12. All performances are at the Historic State Theater’s Plum Alley Theater located at 209 W. Dixie Ave. in Elizabethtown. Tickets are $15 for adults and $13 for seniors, groups, children and military. For more information contact (270) 351-0577.