KNOXVILLE – Produced by the Creative Arts Council and SGA, “A Night of Nativities” came to life Dec. 3, 4, 5, and 6 in the Old Main auditorium.
The performances included two one-act plays, “The Christmas Movie” and “Nativity on the Square.” The two plays were set with occasional dramatic music and witty one-liners, while still delivering quiet, meaningful moments.
Actors rehearsed two to three times each week for several weeks to prepare for opening night. Following Thanksgiving break, members of “A Night of Nativities” returned for an intense week of full dress and tech rehearsals.
One of the show’s directors, senior Jared Randall, emphasized both hard work and having fun. “I think if we’re not having fun with it, the audience won’t,” he said.
The show officially opened Dec. 3 with a special performance by Dr. Jerome Prinston on cello and his daughter, Clara, on violin.
“The Christmas Movie” began first, with a cast of 6 narrators striving to quickly recreate classic Christmas tales. Actors quickly morphed into well known Scrooge, Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
The actors rapidly changed between characters, such as Marley, played by Torie Sanders, who later transformed into Belle (Scrooge’s old fiancé), who then became Tiny Tim.
Scrooge visited his past, present, and possible future Christmases, finally awakening with an opportunity to change his path and heart.
The narrators then looked to a different Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Nolan Tenholder transformed into George Bailey, who stood at the edge of an icy lake tempted to end it all – when suddenly an angel, played by Wade Harper, jumped into the lake (and off the stage). Bailey rushed to save him, and the angel granted his wish: that he would never have been born.
Bailey was forced to experience how catastrophically different the town and people around him would be without his seemingly small choices.
Ultimately, he realized his importance and role in others’ lives, and was taken back to before his wish began.
The play took a shift again as the narrators examined the classic tiny tree and Linus’ telling of the Christmas story from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Finally, one narrator, played by Ashton Hooper, observed, “Christmas is about receiving, not giving.”
The others were confused, but she explained that Christmas is about receiving God’s gift of salvation through Jesus, and how that’s the most important part.
The narrators finished with a quick nativity scene set up, and exclaimed, “God bless us, every one!”
Following a short intermission, the second play, “Nativity on the Square,” began.
A large nativity scene was set up with Joseph and Mary mannequins and a baby doll representing Jesus. The angel, wise man, and shepherd, however, were a bit different.
These characters came to life after all the spectators had wandered away for the night. They, unaware of the story of Jesus, were attempting to solve the mystery of their purpose before being put back into the “dark place.”
They quickly returned to their places when they heard an inebriated woman, played by Elizabeth Anderson, coming upon the scene.
She stumbled over to the baby Jesus, offering him a sip of her beer before observing, “Oh yeah… You make your own, don’t you?”
The woman wandered off and the angel, shepherd, and wise man – who thought he was a king – returned to speculating their situation. They pondered the name of the baby in the manger before settling on a name they often heard sung: Santa Claus.
The woman returned and revealed a bit more about her life. She began to lament her past, beginning with how her boyfriend left her when she discovered she was pregnant. This was juxtaposed to Joseph who stayed with Mary when she got pregnant, even though it wasn’t his.
The audience became privy to more of her past, as she detailed how her child got colic due to her drinking, and then was taken away from her.
The woman later prompted the nativity to do their correct jobs.
The angel, played by Meghan Nelson, was told not to look to the sky, but to look down at the people she was supposed to sing to.
The shepherd, portrayed by Ethan Dailey, who did not want to forfeit his staff was forced to lay it down as the woman instructed him to raise his hands and say “Hallelujah!”
Finally, the wise man, Caleb Jeffries, was humbled when he was forced to give his beloved gift to the baby Jesus.
The nativity characters’ hearts were softened as they learned their true meanings, and as they began to care for the woman.
Thus the show of actors both old and new came to a close, with each having stepped up to the responsibilities of their roles.
Randall wanted to express extra gratitude to Mrs. Tammie Weatherly and Dr. Jon Weatherly for their work, SGA, and Erin Jeffries for assistant directing.
Each performance concluded with caroling and hot chocolate outside of Old Main.