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Cary Players Preview: The Stage Version of A Christmas Story Chronicles the Commotion Caused by a Boy's Request for a BB Gun

December 9, 2004 - Cary, NC:


The Cary Players, in collaboration with Applause Youth Theater and the Town of Cary, will present A Christmas Story Dec. 10-19 in the Media Center of the Old Cary Elementary School, which is located at the end of Academy St. in downtown Cary, NC.

Sue Scarborough and Nan L. Stevenson will co-direct and design this community-theater production of Philip Grecian’s hilarious theatrical adaptation of the classic 1983 motion picture based on Jean Shepherd’s story about the commotion the erupts when Ralphie Parker (Mick Williams) asks Santa Claus (Chuck Keith) to bring him a genuine Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. (Grecian also incorporates into his script other material from other Shepherd reminiscences about growing up in the Midwest during the 1940s.)

When Ralphie makes his shocking request, his mother (Debra Grannan) shrieks, “You’ll shoot your eye out!” Other grownups -- and even old Saint Nick -- tell Ralphie much the same thing.

Looking back on the furor cased by his boyhood yen for a genuine Red Ryder BB gun, the adult Ralph Parker (Matt Schedler) wryly comments, “It was the classic mother B.B. gun block: ‘You’ll shoot your eye out.’ That deadly phrase uttered many times before by hundreds of mothers, was not surmountable by any means known to kiddom.”

Co-director Nan Stevenson says, “About three years ago, [Sue Scarborough and I] saw that [A Christmas Story] was available as a play in a catalogue, and we liked the film.… We liked the opportunities it presented for environmental staging (it has theatrical possibilities), the movie is [well-]known, and the audience can experience theater from the inside out, and be more immediately involved in the story, as the action happens all around them.”

In addition to co-directors Nan Stephenson and Sue Scarborough, who double as the show’s scenic designers, the production team for A Christmas Storyincludes technical director Jim Martz, lighting designer Alex Marshall, costume designer Le Grande Smith and assistant costume designer Diana Waldier, sound designer Al Wodarski, and props mistress Jo Sexton.

Stephenson says a major challenge to the production team was using “found space” (the Media Center in Old Cary Elementary School) to stage the show. Coincidentally, she says, the story is set in 1938, and Old Cary Elementary School initially opened as a high school that same year.

She characterizes the set as “environmental.” Stephenson says, “The audience can chose to sit within the set or on the side. The audience is intermingled in the action at the old Media Center.”

Nan Stephenson says the show’s lighting “switches from reality to fantasy like the movie” and its period costumes, circa 1938, have “lots of detail and follow the ‘six-inch rule,’ with the audience so close [they] must stand up to close scrutiny.”

Playwright Philip Grecian recalls, “The play is clearly based on the movie ... but there were some things in [other related Jean Shepherd] stories that didn’t get into the movie that I liked ... so they made it into the play…. The structure is similar to the movie, though I draw heavily on the four [other] stories as well ... and the sequence is not identical to the movie. I have been careful to be as faithful to [Jean Shepherd] as possible.”

In reviewing Grecian’s play, Jim Clavin wrote, “In [the film version of] A Christmas Story, the story focused on Ralphie’s home and school with other scenes taking place in a department store, back alleys, the school parking lot, the town square, and even a Chinese restaurant. Philip created a main set consisting of Ralphie’s home with a second floor bedroom, and some clever side sets such as the classroom, backyard, and Santa’s Mountain. During the play, your attention is led by lighting effects to focus on one portion of the stage, while another portion is slightly re-arranged for a different scene.”

The Cary Players, in collaboration with Applause Youth Theater and the Town of Cary, presents A Christmas Story Friday-Saturday, Dec. 10-11 and 17-18, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 12 and 19, at 2 p.m. in the Old Cary Elementary School Media Center, 101 Dry Ave., Cary, North Carolina. $14 ($8 children 12 and under). 919/469-4061. Cary Players: http://www.caryplayers.org/newsite/home-bak.html [inactive 9/06]. Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085334/.