‘Spirit of Christmas’ combines past and present

Picture provided by Maddgame Entertainment -- Alexander Scott, left, and Leroy London pose for a publicity photo for UpStage Theatre Company's holiday production, 'In the Spirit of Christmas.' Show caption
Picture provided by Maddgame Entertainment -- Alexander Scott, left, and Leroy London pose for a publicity photo for UpStage Theatre Company's holiday production, 'In the Spirit of Christmas.'

“In the Spirit of Christmas” brings together wise men, the baby Jesus and mall shoppers.

“Audiences expect certain things when they go to Christmas plays. This is totally the opposite. It’s not a traditional Christmas play,” director Ava Brewster-Turner said.

Composed of a series of vignettes and monologues, the production moves between Biblical times and the present.

One of the vignettes is a play on the game show “Family Feud” in which Mary, Joseph, shepherds and other Biblical characters compete against Santa, Ms. Claus and the elves. The characters must answer the question “What do you think about when you think about Christmas?”

Since people get so caught up in the material aspects of the holiday, Santa and his crew start out ahead, said actress Bianca Siplin.

Siplin plays the game show host as well as four other characters in the play including a librarian, a visitor to the baby Jesus, a mall shopper and a woman who finds out she is dying.

The last character delivers a monologue that is as much about the meaning of life as the meaning of Christmas.

“It’s about not putting things off because you never know when it’s your time to go and getting outside your comfort zone,” Siplin said.

Other vignettes are “serious comedy,” she said. In one of the scenes set in Biblical times, Siplin plays an indignant visitor to Jesus who has to come to terms with the fact that her “messiah” is still a baby.

Even though the play has many comedic scenes, it delivers a message about the true meaning of Christmas, Turner said.

“There are all kinds of wonderful things. It will make the audience laugh and also give them something to think about,” she said.

Turner wrote or adapted all of the pieces in the production. UpStage has performed parts of the Biblical-themed play before, both at their theater in Baton Rouge and at churches around the state. Adding pieces about Christmas and turning it into a seasonal piece was a natural fit.

“This is a family show. Everyone is going to enjoy it,” she said.

“In The Spirit of Christmas” ends the theater’s ninth season and Turner is already looking forward to the 10th. For the anniversary, she plans to bring back some favorites such as “Mahalia: A Gospel Musical.” Poetry nights will also resume after the new year along with free screenings of historical African American films from the 1920s-’40s.

“We’re really going to be moving in February,” Turner said.

  • CAST: Keysolyn Byrd, Arthur Carter, Patricia Canty, Brittany Evans, JaeLynn Hall, Leroy London, Myesia Minor, Weldon Shoulder, Alexander Scott, Bianca Siplin, Brittany Tanner, Terrance Turner, Naomi Trahan
  • PRODUCTION STAFF: Ava Brewster-Turner, director; Patricia Cantry, stage manager; Mona Dottory, costumes; Maddgame Entertainment, publicity.