Herdmans head back to Frederick for madcap holiday comedy -- Gazette.Net



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Mother Christine Hawk of Urbana laughs that she’s more nervous than her two young daughters about performing in “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

That’s because she’s never acted before.

“We went to the audition [and I had] no plans to audition myself, but they were interested in me reading some lines, and then they offered me a part,” says Hawk, who actually has two parts.

One is the teacher, Mrs. Frye, and the other is one of the church ladies, Mrs. Clark, in what is the third production of the comedy by the Fredericktowne Players.

The play, based on Barbara Robinson’s book of the same name, is about the six badly behaved — bullying, stealing, conniving — Herdman kids, who are cast in a church pageant without ever having heard the Christmas story about the three wise men, the angel Gabriel, Mary and Joseph, and Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem.

By the end, however, the children understand the meaning and message of the story.

“It’s such a family show and a holiday show, as well,” says director Sarah Marusich of Mount Airy about the show’s popularity with audiences.

“There are lots of opportunities for children to get involved,” she says about the Players’ cast of 44, which includes 29 children ages 6 to 18.

This year’s cast is younger than last year’s, which brings a different dimension to the show, Marusich says.

“They bring a different take,” she says. “They’re smaller in stature — they’re scrappier looking — they go after it head on.”

Last year the Herdmans intimidated other characters in the comedy through physical size, but this year it’s more about being in your face.

“It’s really funny — it’s really intimidation by attitude,” says Marusich, who adds that she’s had some fun devising some new antics for the younger children to perform in the play.

Hawk’s youngest daughter, Jessica, 6, portrays a baby angel, while older sister Katelin, 10, plays a pageant member.

Katelin especially likes going to shows, which is no surprise, as Hawk is a big fan of musicals, especially “Annie.”

“I loved the music, and I did think the story itself was heartwarming ... and about looking at the bright side,” she says about the musical.

A positive message also is something Hawk likes about “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” which the family first saw two years ago, having heard about it from neighbors.

“We thought it was a very adorable play,” says Hawk, who adds Katelin wanted to be in it this year, which is how they all ended up at the audition.

Being part of the production has given Hawk a chance to see what goes on backstage.

“It’s fun for me to finally see behind the scenes,” she says after years of attending shows. “I’ve always wanted to see the end product and how it all fits together.”

She also says she’s hard at work mastering her total of 15 lines.

“The kids learn them so quickly and with such ease,” she laughs. “For me, I have difficulty memorizing.”

vterhune@gazette.net