• Story by Amy Steward | Photos by Caroline J.

Avalon Family Christmas Plays Offer Generational Roles

In 1997, The Cricket Theater rented The Avalon Theatre to put on “A Christmas Carol,” a three-day Christmas show. It was a hit, and the Avalon Foundation approached the group and with an offer to assume the business side of the event if Cricket Theater took care of the craft side. Since then, in the past 22 years, more than 1,000 people have been involved in the Christmas shows, bringing to life such shows as “Miracle on 34th Street,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story,” several versions of “A Christmas Carol,” and last year, for the first time, “Annie.”

Tim Weigand, Director of the Avalon Christmas plays said, “Still after all of these years of doing the shows, it’s the most alive I feel. I have always loved Christmas. It’s like Dickens said in ‘A Christmas Carol’ — it’s the only time of the year when people open their shut-up hearts freely and see each other as fellow human beings.”

Each year, the holiday play brings those heartwarming messages to the stage.

“The redemption story at Christmastime is powerful year after year. In ‘Elf,’ this year’s production, the father, Walter, is like everyone out there at Christmastime, feeling Christmas is in the way of the things we need to get done in his life.”

Weigand, who is also marketing director of the Avalon Foundation, said it’s challenging to produce good theater once a year. He has to pass along useful ways of becoming a better actor quickly to those he casts for the parts.

“It’s an acting class at the same time it’s a play,” Weigand said. “We have lawyers, businessmen, mothers, and grandparents who we need to train to make it possible for them to succeed and not look foolish come show night.”

Over the years, families have started doing the holiday play together because they have seen their own kids or friends having a great time performing in a play. Parents and grandparents follow the younger family members after the initial audition and are even encouraged by their kids to try out. This year two casts (125 people total) will perform “Elf.” They began rehearsing months ago.

“If the holidays are so-so for you, you should do the holiday play at the Avalon. It will be one of the best holidays you have had in a long time,” Weigand said.

Take it from some of the families performing this year.


Bob and Reyn

What drew you to get involved as a family with the shows?

Bob: My son Reyn has done the Avalon Christmas Show since 2011. My wife and I were both in theater companies in college. I told him if the Avalon ever did “Elf” that I would audition. I think we all have a little Walter in us.

Reyn: I always watched videos of my father in plays. Because I was homeschooled, I didn’t have the opportunity to be in plays in the schools, but I could perform here at the Avalon every year. I also interned at MCTV and got to know everyone here.

What do you get out of participating each year?

Reyn: It’s a part of my holiday now — like trimming the tree!

What is fun about doing local theater?

Bob: My father Bill Tull was founder of Tred Avon Players and I grew up with him talking about theater, especially show business and variety entertainment. I guess it trickled through the family. Plus, it’s always a proud moment to see your child in a show.

What has been your favorite show and why?

Reyn: I loved “The Modern Christmas Carol” where I got to play Scrooge. I also enjoyed the modern version of “The Nutcracker” that we did where I played Hugo.


Katie, Patrick, and Charlie

What drew you to get involved as a family with the shows?

Katie: I started doing the shows before my Dad and Pop-C, so I guess I actually drew them into doing the shows with me! I think we all decided to do it again this year together because it is really special to have three generations of our family in the shows. It is really fun to be on stage together and to be able to spend time together and joke around at rehearsal and backstage. We also encourage each other to work hard and do our best in whatever role we are given.

Patrick: Initially, I decided to do “Annie” last year because they needed more men in the show. But now the main reason I do the show is to spend time with Kate and share in something she loves so much — performing. For me, it’s really about making memories with her that we will both carry with us forever.

Charlie: In 2018, when “more old men” were needed for “Annie,” my family told me I should show up and see what parts were available. I did and had a great time doing it, not only with the Katie and Patrick but with the whole cast. It was the first time I had ever been on stage at the Avalon.

What do you get out of participating each year?

Patrick: The number one thing I get out of the shows is sharing the stage with Kate. But number two is more personal. The entire process, especially this year with “Elf,” takes me out of my comfort zone and challenges me. The shows have sparked an interest in performing … learning about how people who are really good at it do it and how I can become better at it. As a lawyer, the show is also a great diversion for me after golf and the boating season have ended. Being a part of the show really puts you in the Christmas Spirit.

Charlie: It’s a real immersion into Christmas spirit and sharing that not only with family but with other people who I know or have met through the show. There is also a sense of achievement and satisfaction doing something that doesn’t come naturally but that must be there, somewhere inside. As an accountant, this offers a chance to express myself in a very different manner. This year, I am going to be Santa Claus, and I am Buddy the Elf’s father in the play (and in real life). That’s exciting! At 70 years old, I am glad I can still do this. It’s made retirement fun!

Katie: The shows are just really fun. It makes me happy to see the audience having a good time, laughing, and being entertained. The shows also put me in the Christmas spirit, especially when we are able to put the audience in the Christmas spirit, too.

Why do you like doing shows at the Avalon?

Patrick: The Avalon has also always been committed to providing opportunities in the arts for children and now the Avalon Children’s Theatre provides a place for Kate and her friends to learn about performing on stage. If me playing a role in a show can help raise money to support those causes and I get out of it all the things I talked about, then there is no reason not to do it!

Katie: The Avalon picks such great musicals and plays for us to perform, and it is a fun place to learn about performing. I have done classes with Miss Kimberly Stevens since I was little, and I love learning dancing, singing, and acting with her. Mr. Tim Weigand has really helped me to improve my acting and challenges me in my roles.


Lori and Jessica

What has been your favorite show and why?

Jessica: My favorite show that I have been in is “Annie!” I had fun meeting new people and it had many songs and dances that I enjoyed. I also enjoyed working with Tim and learning new acting skills. All plays before Annie were just kids about my age. So, it’s fun being in a production with adults as well as kids.

Why do you like doing shows at the Avalon?

Lori: The Avalon Theatre is an important part of our community, bringing local talent and performers from other areas to Easton. Having a venue and access to the arts benefits everyone. I enjoy being part of something that I feel is an essential part of my community.


Angie, Haley AND SARAH

Q: What drew you to get involved as a family with the shows?

Angie: Haley has always loved theatre. The Avalon Christmas show was a way for her to do theatre at the same time as school sports. I decided to do it last year because Haley and Sarah were both auditioning for the show and I figured it would be a fun activity we could do together as a family.

Q: What do you get out of participating each year?

Angie: The fact that the Christmas show is a fundraiser for the Avalon means, not only am I getting to do something fun with my girls, but I am helping the Avalon raise money so they can continue to do the things they do for our community and schools. It is also fun to make new friendships, meeting new people in the community is also a bonus of doing Avalon shows!


Rich, Michelle, Maddie and Emily

What drew you to get involved as a family with the shows?

Rich: As a family, it gives us time together. Interacting with the other families and meeting new people in the community has been a lot of fun too.

Michelle: Maddie liked acting and I liked singing. Now, it’s a family event. We have a lot of pride working together on something like this. It’s easier to have us all together in the play.

What is fun about doing local theater?

Michelle: In local theater, everyone gets a chance and is welcomed. It’s also a generational experience for the kids as part of this cast.

What do you get out of participating each year?

Michelle: Learning to act through these shows has freed me to let go and express myself differently. It’s been a good outlet to be doing something different than I do all day as a financial analyst. I think the girls’ confidence has also grown in singing and acting. Plus, it feels like it’s now part of the holiday seasons for us.


Will and Gigi

What drew you to get involved as a family with the shows?

Gigi: My dad took me to a kids’ audition for “Elf” and since he was the only boy adult there, he read lines for Buddy, and they really liked how he did and called him back for an audition, and now we’re both in the play. I was super surprised he actually did it!

Will: Neither of us had ever done anything like this. Although I had no theater experience, I was not really afraid of doing this. It’s something special we can do together that we will always remember. Gigi is an amazing rehearsal partner at home. She helps me with my lines and knows most of the script — and all of the songs — by heart. I wanted to show my kids you can have the guts to get on stage and try something you have never done before.

What do you get out of participating each year?

Will: This is a different side of me. I am an attorney during the day. Rehearsals are challenging, but it is so much fun getting to know people in this open way. It’s great escapism. I’d love to do this again.

What is fun about doing local theater?

Will: Tim aims for it not to be “just community theater.” He wants to put on a show that rivals much larger theater productions. His experience and dedication to this craft make Tim such a great asset to our community, and he’s an amazing person to learn under. I also appreciate how the Avalon involves all ages in these plays — young, old and in-between. You can tell, in my experience watching past shows like “Annie,” how much time and energy all of your friends and neighbors put into the performances. I’m impressed at how much the Avalon staff does to make it happen each year!


Marianne and Hal

Q: What drew you to get involved as a family with the shows?

Marianne: We started volunteering as ushers at the Avalon after we moved to Easton from Connecticut. It became our inroads to the community. They told us they needed extras for the play one year and we hadn’t acted since high school but decided to do it. This is my 6th year and Hal’s 7th year in the Christmas play.

Q: What is fun about doing local theater?

Hal: The first minute you get on stage, you get a rush and you have to do it again.

Q: Why do you like doing shows at the Avalon?

Hal: We love everything about the Avalon and what it brings to the community – the history of it, how it has been refurbished and that it is the heart of Easton.


Carlyn Diamond and Sullivan “Sully” Moore

What drew you to get involved as a family with the shows?

Carlyn: My grandson Sullivan, Sully is a joiner. We do so much together, but the play is something we hadn’t done before. It looked fun to be a part of it. Sully gave me advice about auditioning. After I sang my audition song, “It’s a Grand Old Flag,” he told me I had to sing a real song. That was funny. His mother also helps with make-up and in the green room.

What is fun about doing local theater?

Sully: In “Elf” I get to yell at my grandmother on stage. That brings lots of laughs.

What do you get out of participating each year?

Sully: It brings a lot of joy to the family. To see your family members on stage makes you feel good. It’s also something fun you can do over the holidays.


There are more than 20 families performing in this year’s Christmas play.

“Elf” will be playing December 13, 14, and 20 at 7 p.m.; December 19 at 6 p.m. (Dinner Show); December 15 and 22 at 2 p.m.; and December 21 at 2 and 7 p.m. Tickets are available online at avalontheatre.com or by calling 410-822-7299.

#StageLeft #Elf #Christmas #Holiday #December2019 #AvalonTHeatre

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