Posted by Eric Williams
Eric appears as Stanley in Sanders Family Christmas. By day he is the Director of Tour Operations for Theatre IV.
Tonight is Opening Night again - sort of. It will be 1941, and the Sanders Family will descend once more on Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in the Appalachian foothills of North Carolina.
Sanders Family Christmas has been in rehearsal for several weeks now and the experience has been both exciting and scary. About two years ago Bruce Miller gathered together a motley collection of actors who also sing and play instruments and guided us to what became Smoke on the Mountain. It was a successful venture with theatre lovers having to be turned away because so many of the performances were sold out—exactly the kind of problem any theatre would like to have.
The cast and theatre had conflicts making it impossible to extend the run, so when the idea was floated that we could reunite at Christmas time and do the sequel, we all jumped at the chance.
The entire cast and director are back. It was like putting on a pair of your favorite old shoes when we got together--very comfortable. We already knew all of the characters, so all that was left was to learn the new script and music. Piece of cake! None of us had actually seen the new script and music but how hard could it be? After all, we’d done it before and this sequel was just like the original, right?
Well, not exactly. While the format of Sanders Family Christmas is similar to Smoke on the Mountain, the two-hour script certainly was all new. And the music … well let’s just say I had to go on the Internet to find out how to play some of the newfangled power chords asked for in this new score.
Rehearsal was fun but urgent. We had some big, and I mean big, laughs. But there was business to be done too. Billy Christopher Maupin, a.k.a. Reverend Oglethorpe, plunked our notes over and over and over again. And that was just the vocals. We had not added the instrumentation yet.
Our cast was still a bit far flung. Our music director extraordinaire Drew Perkins was in Blowing Rock, NC until 3 weeks before opening. Aly Wepplo was in a show in Idaho at Company of Fools. David Janeski was performing at Busch Gardens (when he wasn’t off to Idaho to visit Aly).
Ok, now I was scared. We all had to learn 105 pages of new and difficult (at least to my fingers) music. Thank goodness we have really talented cast members who stepped in to plunk and help musically (the aforementioned Billy Christopher, Emily Cole and Julie Fulcher). There were several music rehearsals with just three or four of us. Bruce kept giving reassurances that everything would be just fine.
Finally, when Drew returned to Virginia, it all began to come together. Nonetheless, this has been a most challenging time—but challenging is good, isn’t it?
Our hard work is about to get the final test - the audience. As rehearsals come to an end and performances start we have a couple of things that you should know. The entire cast enjoys each other and we want you to enjoy yourselves too. Come slip on that old pair of shoes that is the Sanders Family and spend a little Christmas down home.
Sanders Family Christmas runs through January 25, 2009 at Hanover Tavern. Performances are already selling out quickly. Call (804) 282-2620 or purchase tickets online.