The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, 701 S. Main St., at Pine Bluff, is bringing to the stage Jean Shepherd’s tale of a boy in his quest to get a genuine Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas.
ASC will present “A Christmas Story” at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 13, and Saturday, Dec. 14, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 15. The production is sponsored by Relyance Bank. Tickets are $13 for ASC members, $17 for nonmembers and $8 for students and seniors, according to a news release.
The play is the theatrical adaption of the 1983 Warner Bros. film that has become a holiday classic.
“Ralphie is a typical 1940s Midwestern American boy and he wants more than anything an ‘official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot Range Model air rifle with a compass and this thing that tells time built right into the stock’ for Christmas,” director Lindsey Collins said, quoting Ralphie’s detailed description of his coveted gift.
“The play shows a family’s last couple of days leading up to Christmas — the hubbub of shopping, going to see Santa at the mall, turkey dinners, and Christmas lights. It’s a slice of Americana where we get to see into one family’s Christmas celebration. It’s just a good, wholesome American show that shows the lead-up to an average Christmas morning in one family. It’s wanting something so bad and then finally getting it and how it can backfire.”
Austin McCann, a seventh-grader at East End Middle School, makes his stage debut as the bespeckled “Ralphie.”
As in the movie, the play is told by Ralphie as an adult. ASC veteran performer and director Jonathan Hoover steps into the narrator role as “Ralph.”
“The dialogue is so descriptive in ‘A Christmas Story,’” Hoover said. “There are so many adjectives. What I might be able to say in one sentence, Ralph goes off in a whole paragraph just describing the sights and the sounds and the smells. As a storyteller, it really puts you in it.”
Ralphie’s father — referred to as “The Old Man” — is played by longtime ASC performing arts contributor Martin Carty. He has been involved in more than 25 productions at ASC as an actor, director, stage manager, set constructer and musician. He is also chairman of the Arts & Science Center Endowment Fund Board of Directors.
Dana Edwards makes her ASC debut as Ralphie’s mother. She teaches English, oral communications and theater at White Hall High School, and recently directed “The Wizard of Wonderland” at the school.
Baylor Groomes, a third-grader at Poyen Elementary School, is also making his ASC debut as Ralphie’s younger brother, Randy.
Tracy Sutherland of White Hall, another ASC stage veteran, plays Ralphie’s teacher Miss Shields.
The rest of the cast includes Megan Booker, Trey Booker, Caylex Collins, Aubrey Edwards, Belle Groomes, Zach Gwinn, Robert Heisler, Dorian Hunter, Kristopher Hunter, Lily Jennings, Kennedy Landrey, Keiren Minter, Zoey Newcomb, Landon Samples, Mary Catherine Smart, Virginia Smart, Tracy Sutherland, Aaron Taylor and Rick Wilson.
Accompanying director Collins is assistant director Kayla Lake.
The play was adapted from the movie by Philip Grecian, and had its first equity performance in 2005. The movie, written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark, was based on Shepherd’s book “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.” (Shepherd was also the film’s narrator.)
Audiences can expect a homey, cozy experience, Collins said.
“We hope to bring the audience into this world with us so they can enjoy this fun, lighthearted story of a boy in the search of the perfect Christmas gift.”
Familiar sights from the movie include the iconic leg lamp. Propmaster Carman Conner has created two lamps — one for the production, and one to be raffled off. Raffle tickets are $5 each and can be purchased in person or by calling the center. The winner will be drawn at 2 p.m Sunday, Dec. 15, and does not have to be present to win. Proceeds benefit ASC’s children’s theater programming.
Tickets to the play are $13 for ASC members, $17 for nonmembers and $8 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased by visiting asc701.com, in person at ASC or by calling 870-536-3375. Details: Lindsey Collins at email@example.com or by calling ASC.