Phased Development: Fred Waring’s Christmas Shindig
What is it? It is one week of exploratory rehearsal of Fred Waring’s Christmas Shindig (or “the Shindig”), an original holiday musical that White Pines Executive Director Ben Lloyd has been working on (and off) since 2011. It uses the Christmas music of mid-20th century band leader and choral arranger Fred Waring. It tells the story of an amazing, awkward and ultimately uplifting reunion of three branches of the same family at "Fred Waring’s house", which is a kind of magical Christmas wonderland.
Who’s involved? Benjamin Lloyd is the creative director of the project. On the steering committee are Karen Lecks (Acting Out parent) and Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer, White Pines board member. The musical director is Bill Jolly, and the assistant musical director is Matthew Mastronardi. Sutie Madison is the choreographer. In the cast are, from Bright Invention: the White Pines Ensemble Jerry Perna, Katherine Perry, John Schultz, Michelle Pauls and Tanya O'Neill. From Abington Friends School, high school students Lindsay and Jordan Smelcer, Drew Jacobson and Matthew Norden. And Isabel Cohen, Dalia Lorenz, Caleb Schaphorst and Eric Salomon, four actors with disabilities from our special needs acting class Acting Out!
Why actors with disabilities? Two reasons: a) it is in keeping with White Pines commitment to the transformational power of performance creativity, and our developing work with people with disabilities, and b) this week of rehearsal is the result of a grant White Pines was awarded from the PA Council on Developmental Disabilities. The grant stipulates that 1/3 of the cast (four actors) must be actors with disabilities. The Shindig’s message is one of radical inclusion, told through the comic collision of three branches of the same family each with a different relationship to Christmas (for instance, one branch is Jewish.) Our goal by including actors with disabilities is to show them en par with the other actors, invite them to be co-creators, and reveal them to be, ultimately, equal members of the human family.
What’s the ultimate goal? The creation of an enduring holiday show produced and presented by White Pines each December, which always tells the same story with the same music, always includes the same ratio in the cast (1/3 professional, 1/3 high school actors, 1/3 actors with disabilities), but uses new actors each year. Each years’ show will be slightly different, depending on who’s in the cast. Right now, there is no production schedule or money to support a full production. This week of rehearsal in June is a step towards such a full production, some time in the future.
When is this week of rehearsal? Tuesday June 14 – Saturday June 18, 10 am - 4 pm, with one hour for lunch. Sunday June 19, 2 pm – 8 pm, with a presentation for an invited audience at 7 pm. Location is Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, PA, which has generously donated space to White Pines in support of this project. Our goal for the week will be to present the first 15 – 20 minutes of the musical in workshop form. Stand by to learn how to sign up to see what we create in June!