While preparing for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, I was diagnosed with leukemia. The Monday before Thanksgiving in fact. Just a few days before our opening night. Needless to say it came as quite a shock.
After Pageant was finished I continued to see my oncologist and, at each visit, I was asked about any “new pains or problems.” I had been occasionally experiencing a slight pain in my right side but nothing significant. As a precaution I was sent for a CT scan of the abdomen which revealed a small tumor on my kidney. A later MRI revealed that the tumor was, in fact, cancerous. This was in late January/early February.
I needed surgery and was not sure of the scheduling. I did not audition for Mousetrap for that very reason as I didn’t want to possibly get cast then have the surgery become urgent and get scheduled during the show or rehearsals because the recovery time was going to be significant. My work schedule coming up was pretty busy through the summer of this year and, being self employed, I had to work to get paid.
Fortunately the surgeons, after more testing, decided surgery could wait until July. In the meantime, my daughter Elizabeth auditioned for Shrek and was cast originally as the White Rabbit but her part was later changed to the Wicked Witch. Surgery was scheduled for July 20, which was just before opening day for Shrek.
Director Marc Hammes let me come to the last two dress rehearsals before the show so that I could see her perform but I did not get to see the actual full theater performance of Shrek.
I am now recovering and doing well. Still fatigued some but nothing I can’t handle. There were a number of people with On Stage who checked in on me including Marc and several others. Even some of the actors with whom I worked called and emailed. It was very touching to have that contact and means more than anyone knows.
Russell with his make-up artist and co-star, his daughter Elizabeth.
by Russell Pope, Sr.
I don’t know that I can identify a single “hardest” part of these acting jobs that I have loved. It is a great deal of work with the travel from home three times a week and time away from family and chores (though that is not necessarily a bad thing!). It is a huge commitment of time and energy.
However, being on the stage and entertaining the audience is such a fulfilling “reward” that the hard work and time invested is more than worth it. And it is really fun! I have met so many good people and learned so much. Pulling the curtain back on the inside of a production, and working behind the scenes, gives me a much greater appreciation for the shows I have been to see in the past and shows I will see going forward.
One of the best parts of these shows has been the additional time spent with my daughter Elizabeth. We live in Oxford and it is about a 25 – 30 minute drive to the theater. We drive to and from rehearsals and the performances together. We are able to talk during these drives about so much. From school stuff, to her friends, to homework, about life issues, to just silly things. But we have the common experiences that have brought us closer together.
I have always been an active father with our six children and their activities but this experience has been instrumental in expanding our relationship. We both seem to look forward to these drives and times together. They are the highlight of the week oftentimes.
My proudest moment as a dad, relative to working with On Stage, came when we were reading through the script to this show for the first time. Elizabeth got a prominent part in Pageant and had a memorable role in Shrek. She has a much smaller role in Fruitcakes.
There was one role that I, during the first reading, whispered to her that I thought she would have been perfect for. Her response was that she was really glad the girl who was cast in the role got it. When I asked why, she responded that “Well, she had a small role in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and auditioned for Shrek but didn’t get cast. I’m really glad she got a bigger part in this show. I don’t mind the small role. I’m just glad to be in another show with you, Dad.”
That brought a tear to my eyes but is typical for her attitude and caring for others.
My name is Hendley Jones; I am 14 years old, and I played Little Beebo in the On Stage Christmas production, Fruitcakes. It's is a comedy written by Julian Wiles about a runaway boy who meets all of the weird people in his new runaway town.
Our director Marc Hammes does a fantastic job directing a play. He knows when we're struggling and when we need help. He always knows what we're supposed to be doing during the production. He will help us if we need help with lines, blocking, or pretty much anything. We are so lucky to have him as our director.
Practicing in a show for OnStage is extremely fun, despite all of the hard work and sweat that you pour into it. You get to meet a lot of new faces and develop a relationship with them. If I have a bad day, I can always look forward to coming to rehearsal because it'll lift my spirits.
This show has really built up my confidence on the stage in front of people. I've learned to create the backstory of the character who you are playing; don't be yourself. Have fun with acting. You get to be somebody else for a while; take advantage of the opportunity.
It's definitely more fun to play a character you're nothing alike rather than someone who acts or behaves exactly like you. Little Beebo is absolutely nothing like me. This makes playing him in the show so much more entertaining.
This is my 3rd production with OnStage. I was previously in It's A Wonderful Life as Tommy, and A Christmas Story as Flick. I also do productions with my school. I was Simba in The Lion King and Gavrocche in Les Miserables.
I think everyone should be part of OnStage because the process of putting on a show is amazing, especially as it gets down to the last week or two of rehearsals. If you have stage fright, it's okay. You can still be part of a show. You could help with the tech, props, or even just advertising the show to friends and family. Anything helps.
Thanks for all who came to see the show!
Hi! I'm Jennifer Rice and I'm playing Alice in our current production of Fruitcakes! This is my first lead role and I'm quite nervous but feel confident under the direction of the famous Marc Hammes.
Marc is very hands-on and constructive. He gives freedom to be creative as well as guidance to make my character even better. He's right there on stage with you. I like that. The production is underway and coming together quite nicely.
I have also played Judge Harper in Miracle on 34th Street and a church lady in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
The difference in this role is having more lines, and also a bigger responsibility to the show in general. With this lead role, I have learned the better I know my lines, the better I can perfect my acting ability through movement and expression. Now that I know my lines, I can explore and really make it my own.
I can relate my character, Alice, in the way that she is a kind-hearted free spirit. We both like eggnog too!
All ages are going to enjoy this amusing yet touching story of eccentric small town folk. It will definitely be a "holiday gift" to our community.
by Russell Pope, Sr.
Last Christmas my daughter convinced me to audition with her for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” I have always wanted to act. Since I was really young I have had a desire to perform. I was in some plays in school but had gotten away from performing for years. Surprisingly, I was cast as Bob Bradley, the dad. And my daughter was cast as well.
Working with Marc Hammes and the rest of the crew at OnStage was wonderful. I had not been in a stage production since primary school (and “Stage production” loosely describes the school experience) and this was more fun than I could have imagined. It was also a great deal of work. More than I ever dreamed. But it was the hardest job I ever loved.
Due to health issues I was unable to audition for other productions until the upcoming Christmas show, “Fruitcakes.” Again, surprisingly, I was cast in one of the main parts. And again, it has been a lot of work but it is a great job and I can hardly wait for opening night.
It's more than learning lines
There is so much more to a production than learning lines. Last year was my first “professional” production. I was such a newbie that learning my lines and cues was the focus of my attention. This year I have had the same situation, just many more lines and cues!
Watching Director Marc Hammes and Assistant Director Noelle Barrett as they pull together not just my parts but the rest of the production has been very educational. I wish that I had been more aware of how to prepare blocking and props last year. I was so focused on the lines and cues that I missed the significant importance of those issues. Although I feel like I learned when I needed to be somewhere in a scene, and which movements were needed to make something scripted seem unscripted, I was not really aware of the difficulty involved in the blocking process or placement of certain props. I’m trying to be more cognizant of those needs now and want to make things as easy for Marc and Noelle as possible.
Additionally, the technical aspects of the shows are often underappreciated by the audience. Without the techies, the performance cannot be properly achieved. I have grown to appreciate the significant contributions of those working behind the scenes to pull these shows together. Marc has made me much more aware and appreciative of the contributions of those behind the scenes.
He also has endless patience. At least that is how it seems. I am quite certain he gets frustrated at times (justifiably) but he is always very good to encourage the cast and crew.
Marc is impressive in so many ways it is hard to describe. He has the ability to take a scene filled with young actors who have boundless energy and zeal and are often hard to keep focused and turn their energy into a seemingly chaotic scene that is perfectly executed and choreographed. From the vantage point of the audience, it looks like chaos and crazy. But the movements and chaos is controlled. He is absolutely awesome!!
Marc does an amazing job pulling together a very diverse cast of actors into a very professional production. He has so much energy that he is incredibly inspiring.
On learning lines
Learning my lines has been a challenge simply because of the sheer volume. Not really overwhelming but just very time consuming. When practicing, I use a folded napkin to read the scenes in which I appear. The napkin covers my highlighted lines and I am pretty good at imitating the voices (in my head) of the actors playing the characters in the scene with me. I will often stand and walk through the scene as I go through my lines. If I stumble with the line I will go back and do the “trouble” area several times.
The most helpful thing I do, though, is rehearse with my daughter Elizabeth who was in Pageant with me, performed in Shrek, and is in this production as well. She and I will go through scenes on our ride to and from the theater. That has been the best practice for learning lines. She also will rehearse with me at home as I walk through some of the blocking in certain scenes.
If you have ever considered performing in a play or working in a production in other capacities (lighting, sound etc.) OnStage can offer you the opportunity for a wide range of experiences. And the productions are extremely well done and professional.
And if you have never been to an OnStage show before, come out and enjoy a great evening of entertainment at a very reasonable price.
Hello everyone, I'm Katie Galbreath! I am a teenage actress in this show, playing the role of Pam. Things are going great at Fruitcakes rehearsals, and I think we are getting a lot done very quickly. I love the process and getting to know people who love what I love.
Personally, Marc [Hammes, Director] has helped me and many others remember to react to what's going on. Multiple times during rehearsals, he'll stop and make us think of how our character would respond to what's happening, even if we don't have lines. It's the little things that really help a show come to life.
Every rehearsal has its own spark to it. We're always laughing, whether it's when Marc ran out to get ice cream from the ice cream truck, or trying to keep the chaotic scenes from becoming actually chaotic. When you're having fun and doing what you love, it's never dull.
I'd love to do theatre professionally. I plan to continue it throughout my life, and I hope to write, direct and possibly teach as well. I plan on having another career for stability, but I never get tired of drama. Even if I am busy or stressed, it's always been more of an escape/relax rather than a burden.
My first and only other On Stage performance was in 2013. I participated in a Youth Summer Workshop and portrayed Ethel and the Lion in Circus Tales. Theater work is the best type of work to have.
I'm so excited for people to come see our show. Whether you're confident, nervous, or completely calm, everyone always gives it their all on performance nights, and it makes the show so amazing. It's one of the best feelings being on stage, entertaining others, and having fun.
Marc has been working really hard to put this show together by modifying set getting props and costumes, running rehearsals, and so much more! In the show, Pam says, "Never a dull moment in McCord's Ferry", but I would say, "Never a dull moment at On Stage!"