Wichitastic 

Not just another Christmas Carol.

What better time than Christmas to bring a little bit of the Midwest to the Bay Area? "Back in Wichita, there is a wonderful company there called the Wichita Children's Theatre," says Shaun-Michael Morse, "and this year they celebrated 25 years of doing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." So when the Town Hall Theatre Company, of which Morse is artistic director, was looking for a holiday show, the Barbara Robinson tale of "the worst children in the history of the whole world" was the first thing that came to his mind.

"It's about a group of welfare children whose dad has skipped town," he says, "and what happens is that these town bullies that everyone's afraid of end up invading the church Christmas pageant that has been the same for years and years and years, where the same kids play Mary and Joseph every year, and they sing the same songs, and it's the same costumes every year, and no one asks any questions. But the Herdmans end up with all the lead parts, and they turn everything upside down. They ask all kinds of questions about things that most of us take for granted."

Other than being a great fit for Town Hall, which has an active kids' program, and for Lafayette, which is an upper-middle-class community much like the one in the story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever addresses subjects that are near and dear to the director's heart. "My partner and I do foster care, and we've had about twenty foster kids through our home," he says. "So I was telling the kids that I cast as 'the bad kids' in the play some true-life stories of some kids that I've known come through the welfare system. Their jaws just hit the floor -- they had no idea that things like that really happen to people.

"But I cautioned the cast, 'Don't dwell on the dark part of it,' because you don't really hear about that at all. It's a very funny story." The G-rated play runs Thursday through Sunday, December 5 through 28. Call 925-283-1557 or visit THTC.org for showtimes, tickets, and further information.

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