|PREVIEW DEC 5 2013
OPENS DEC 6
RUNS THROUGH DEC 24
THE BEST CHRISTMAS PAGEANT EVER
NOT PART OF THE SUBSCRIPTION SEASON.
Performance dates and times:
Thursday, December 5, 2013 7:00 PM
Friday, December 6, 2013 7:00 PM
Saturday, December 7, 2013 4:00 PM
Sunday, December 8, 2013 2:00 PM
Friday, December 13, 2013 7:00 PM
Saturday, December 14, 2013 4:00 PM
Sunday, December 15, 2013 2:00 PM
Friday, December 20, 2013 7:00 PM
Saturday, December 21, 2013 2:00 PM
Saturday, December 21, 2013 4:00 PM
Sunday, December 22, 2013 2:00 PM
Sunday, December 22, 2013 4:00 PM
Monday, December 23, 2013 2:00 PM
Monday, December 23, 2013 4:00 PM
Tuesday, December 24, 2013 2:00 PM
Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 4:00 PM
An interview with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever director, Shana Bestock
By Cole Hornaday, SPT Communication and PR Manager
This will be SPT’s 13th production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, or BXPE for short. That abbreviation was standardized early in the theater’s history. How did that come about?
BXPE (pronounced Bix-Pee) was conceived because the first year I directed it, I was struggling with email on a dial-up connection. With my rusty typing skills, I had to shorten the subject line to stay sane, starting with “Best Xmas Pag Ever” to, finally, “BXPE.” Thusly traditions are born.
Rumor has it BXPE was the play that “saved the theater” upon its initial run in 2001. Is this true? What happened?
It is totally true! SPT hadn’t weathered the transition from scrappy educational touring company to resident professional organization well. When things started imploding economically, I asked to direct BXPE for no money, with no budget. We spent $300 on paint, and three valiant board members somehow kept the lights on. It was a theater community at its finest - an energetic, ambitious, eager ensemble who sold enough $5 and $7 tickets to raise $20,000…And voila! We had a little money and a great deal of energy and momentum to start creating a phoenix from the ashes. Seattle Public Theater exists today due to the hard work and incredible commitment - not to mention chutzpah - of those first BXPE pioneers!
Every season there’s a little something new and different about SPT’s staging of BXPE beyond the design and casting. How will this year’s production prove not a remount, but a rediscovery?
Every year in mid-October I start singing the script to myself in my head (yes, I have the whole thing memorized). And every year some new idea pops out--a “What If” moment that changes a line delivery, or a way of having characters relate that is an “Ah-Ha!” moment for me. And then, of course, you get into the rehearsal room with actors who are making their own discoveries, using their unique instruments to tell the story. BXPE is oddly like Shakespeare. It’s a classic text that I enjoy reinterpreting and revisiting because the story is so solid, so resilient, so necessary, so vital, and so immediate that it lends itself to shifts in tone and nuance that offer up discovery after discovery. Come to the show and you’ll see what I mean.
BXPE is frequently seen as a rite of passage for young people in the SPT Youth Program. Tell us more about this.
BXPE has been a great way to bridge the gap between SPT’s educational and professional productions. BXPE offers young actors an opportunity to gain audition experience, to work with adults, and to do an extended run of a show. For some it’s a rite of passage for sure, but it’s a passageway that’s more loopy and circular than linear. Kids experience BXPE at all different ages, sometimes coming and going, sometimes doing a run of three or four years. Adults can find it a transformative experience as well - it connects them with that exuberant energy and reminds them of why they started acting in the first place. Oddly enough, many young actors have worked on far more challenging material by the time they get to BXPE, so it’s not an acting stretch as much as a life experience. Moving back and forth between BXPE and the Youth Program is a two-way street, and both the Mainstage and the Youth Program are the richer for this cross-pollination.
You have a deep personal history with BXPE, starting with your performance of Gladys at Seattle Children’s Theatre. Tell us about that experience.
It was 1983. I was 9 years old and a 4th grader at Madrona Elementary. Jeff Steitzer directed, and it was the second production ever. Seattle Children’s Theatre put it on at Meany Hall. My own Grandma Rose had Alzheimers’ Disease, and BXPE was the last production she saw me in and knew who I was. As an adult, I have this awful power to imagine the moment when my Dad took his Mom to see his kid, and nudged her to watch for my final moment. “She’s gonna pop up from the orchestra pit,” he would have said. “Waving a star on a stick. Talking right to the audience. It’s her favorite moment. Here it comes, here it comes…” and on that fateful night, the last time Grandma Rose ever saw her granddaughter onstage - yes, that was the night that the orchestra pit was locked and I was robbed of my final moment. I ended up being pushed out to the curtain call by an exasperated stage manager, my face streaked with tears, gulp-singing “Joy to the World.” But of course, to Grandma Rose, it was all perfect. She didn’t need a grand finale. She just needed to be there.
So now? Being able to connect kids with their families over the footlights, watching parents nudge parents and whisper, “Look, there’s our kid!” fills me up. Makes the big wide world less scary. Renews my faith. People talk about being wrapped in the love of family, being supported by ancestors back through time and history. Well, this little play in this little theater is my synagogue, my sweat lodge, and my mountaintop.
And Grandma Rose’s name is on one of our seats.
Shana Bestock is SPT’s Artistic and Educational Director. She has been with Seattle Public since SPT came to the Bathhouse in 2001. This is her 13th year directing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.