Andrea Spitz has staged such as plays “Proof” and “Rabbit hole,” with serious or even, in her words, “depressing” themes.
Now Spitz – a board member of Silver Spring Stage since 2007 – is directing much-lighter fare: the community theater's production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
The play derives from the bestselling children’s holiday classic by Barbara Robinson, and, like the book and the 1983 TV special based on it, concerns the shenanigans of the Herdman siblings. Robinson has described them as “the most awful kids in history.”
That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they're probably not the most well-behaved kids either.
So, no one in the small-town community where the book is set rejoices when the Herdman siblings decide to audition for the annual Christmas Pageant – less for faith or theater than the fact that the try-outs include free snacks.
To add insult to injury, the Herdman siblings are all entrusted with key parts – including the Angel.
At the same time, the pageant can use a little spice. “No one is excited about it because it's the same thing every year,” said Spitz.
The “spice” doesn't change the fact that the Herdman kids cause anguish to Grace Bradley, the already put-upon pageant director.
Kelli Boyd, who's returning theater after a hiatus of about 15 years, plays Grace.
“This is a great chance to come home,” Boyd said. “And Silver Spring Stage is in the neighborhood.”
Boyd had heard of the “Best Christmas Pageant” book but not read it, so it was “very exciting” to be cast in what is essentially the lead role – though, with a cast of 32, she's reluctant to call it that.
They say one of the great challenges of acting in a comedy is to not laugh out loud unless the part calls for it.
During the first rehearsal, Boyd admitted that she was not up to the challenge. “I stopped to pay attention to the kids and laughed out loud,” she said. “They were hilarious.”
If the tone is considerably more upbeat than the plays Spitz has directed before, she faces a different challenge. Most actors in the cast are children, including three of her own.
“My fourth child is too young to be in the play,” Spitz, who began acting in second grade, laughed. “It does help that I directed the show before, and have a background in children's theatre. I enjoy that working with youngsters makes you see your younger self.”
Looking back is also the theme of Silver Spring Stage 2017-2018 season, is celebrating the theater's 50th anniversary. In commemoration, Silver Spring is presenting a play for each decade of its existence, that either evokes the period, was a memorable production, or a show the theater always wanted to bring to audiences, Spitz added.
“To recognize our 50 years, the Stage looks back at every decade from the 1960s to the present,” she said
As for the current production, since it involves a Christmas pageant, the Herdmans must improve. After all, even Scrooge did. The “worst kids ever” – who never heard the holiday story before – start to reimagine it in their own way.
Silver Spring Stage's next production, which runs Jan. 12 through Feb. 3, has a far darker theme. In “Wit,” the 1999 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Margaret Edson, an English professor and scholar of John Donne is diagnosed with terminal ovarian cancer.
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” runs Dec. 8 through Dec. 17 at Silver Spring Stage, 10145 Colesville Road in the Woodmoor Shopping Center. You can purchase tickets at www.ssstage.org. For information, call 301-593-6036.