Live theatre is gradually returning.

After a long period of productions being planned optimistically only to be eventually called off, and of theaters navigating the technical difficulties and stressful stakes of virtual livestreams, it’s true that live theatre is coming back.

Meadville is no exception to this. Many of our local theaters are planning, if they have not already produced, productions for 2021 and even 2022. However, one of the last to get back on its feet was children’s theatre outside of a school setting. Children’s theatre comes with its own challenges, regardless of the ongoing pandemic.

While navigating busy schedules and unpredictable circumstances, French Creek Community Theatre planned a holiday variety show.

It would be untrue to say that it came easily. Some things came back to us naturally, but others didn’t. By November, however, we had made progress. We had a cast list, we had directors, we had songs and skits.

We had a show.

We even had a student-directed show. With high school seniors Kelsey Cole (skits “A Christmas Carol,” “Regift”), Emilie Weaver (Music Director, skit “Homicide for the Holidays”), and Rachel White (skits “The New North Pole,” “Regift”) taking the lead, along with juniors Zoe Hansen (skit “The Twelve Days After Christmas”) and Brenna Palmiero (skit “Coronativity”), we assembled a variety show filled to the brim with — well, variety.

French Creek Community Theatre, “where everyone has a part to play,” is all-inclusive, meaning that every child who auditions has a place in the cast, and a role just for them. We pride ourselves on being a safe, creative space for young actors to express themselves and find a community and sense of belonging. This spirit was ever-present in our "Comedy Christmas Comeback," despite the performance being presented under unusual circumstances.

The cast includes the aforementioned student directors, along with local FCCT actors Donald Dudinsky, Ella Dudinsky, Nathan Heim, Arianna Palmiero, Faith Peterson, Natasha Mauser, Alex Rogers and Laurel Steudler. The show also includes cameos from grads and FCCT alumni Zach Hansen, Maja Heuchert and Skylar Morrell. Every cast member worked hard to bring the show to life.

It was a rocky road to get there. We lost cast members because of illness and scheduling conflicts, we enlisted understudies at the last minute, and there were certainly times when both the cast and the creative team felt overwhelmed.

But we didn’t give up on this show, and by Dec. 17, we felt ready and fully prepared. Well, perhaps not fully prepared, but excited nonetheless. And won’t passion for our craft make up for any bumps in the road the audience witnesses? This show would not have been possible without the dedication of our young cast members, and the guidance and support of our parent-led creative team, including costuming, light and sound, publicity, set design, show coordination, and stage crew.

The "Comedy Christmas Comeback" features six skits, three original (that’s right, they were written by a cast member—you’ve never seen them before!) and three modern takes on holiday classics. "The New North Pole," "Regift," and "Homicide for the Holidays," written by Emilie Weaver, are joined by "A Christmas Carol," written by Charles Dickens and adapted by Andrew Pavey, and presented through Drama Notebook, "Coronativity," written by Barry Brannen and presented through Dramativity, and "The Twelve Days After Christmas," written by Frederick Silvers. In between these skits, catch solo performances from our cast members!

The show was performed and recorded on Dec. 17 with a limited audience of mostly family of cast members. An audience always helps make the performers feel more comfortable, as they are able to respond to its responses, gaining confidence from the laughter or pride from the applause.

The video recording of the variety show is now available on YouTube. Search “FCCT Presents Comedy Christmas Comeback,” find the link on French Creek Community Theatre’s Facebook page, or type in the link at youtu.be/MX7x1pjK9Rk.

There will soon be a separate upload of the video that provides closed captioning. Please excuse any technical difficulties. As you know, this show was produced on a much smaller scale than usual and was student-led and directed, but we are very proud of what we have accomplished, especially with limited resources and while remaining mindful of the ongoing pandemic.

 Emilie Weaver is one of the student directors for FCCT's Comedy Christmas Comeback.

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