Arts and Entertainment

Christmas with the Herdmans

The Herdmans crash Christmas in the Downtown Theatre Project
The Herdmans crash Christmas in the Downtown Theatre Project's production of 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Easton Thomas

For most people, the holidays mean drinking hot cocoa, getting together with family and celebrating the season. For the Herdman family, it’s just another reason to wreak havoc. At least that’s the case in Barbara Robinson’s novel “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”

This month, the Downtown Theatre Project brings the classic story of riot and redemption to the stage.

Directed by theater veteran Jeremy Anderson, who worked previously at Seattle’s Taproot Theatre Company, this marks the first production by the Downtown Theatre Project - a new group looking to create a more active performing arts community in West Bellevue.

A longtime holiday classic, Robinson’s tale tells the story of Imogene, Claude, Ralph, Leroy, Ollie, and Gladys Herdman - a family of delinquents who crash the annual Christmas Pageant after being told the church provides snacks. The Bellevue production will feature a cast and crew of approximately 45 people (ages 8 to 60), who have been working on the show since September.

“We wanted to do a holiday themed play,” Anderson said regarding their show selection. “And it’s a great story.”

Cast in the role of eldest daughter Imogene Herdman is Amanda Albert, 19, of Snohomish.

Albert first heard about the production from Anderson, who was directing a show at her high school, Sky Valley Education Center in Monroe, last spring.

While the young actress was not familiar with the story before auditioning, she said it’s been an exciting challenge.

“I had trouble connecting with [Imogene] because she is so different from who I am,” Albert said.

Prior to this production, Albert said she generally played roles similar to who she is off stage. She said getting to know Imogene - and learning to become her on stage - has helped her to round out her acting abilities.

Playing narrator Beth Bradley is Kirsten Dunn, 18, who has been a fan of the story for as long as she can remember.

“I grew up reading the story with my family every Christmas,” said the Kirkland resident.

Dunn said she was drawn to the role because she loves the theme of redemption in the story.

“It’s really a story about not judging a book by its cover,” Dunn said. “And it gives a really different take on the [Nativity] story - it makes it real.”

She said she is excited to give the story her own flavor, and to make the character of Beth her own.

Regarding the performances, Anderson says he is most excited to see how it all comes together. He hopes the audience leaves feeling the warmth of the holiday season.

But more than that, he hopes their production will serve as a launching pad for more projects to come.

“There are so many different kinds of people and relationships within this play,” Anderson said. “It’s been really exciting to see the community build within the cast itself.”

Performances will take place Friday, Dec. 14 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. (doors at 1:30 and 7 p.m.) at Interlake High School, 16245 NE 24th St., Bellevue. The show is sponsored by The Downtown Church and is free and open to the public. Seating is first come, first served.

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