'Bad' kids turn good in 'best pageant ever'

Posted: Thursday, December 06, 2001

Kelly Thomson jumped at his chance to be bad.

"I always wanted to play a bad kid in a play and I thought this would be a good opportunity," he said of his role in the play, "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." "He picks on other kids, he steals people's lunches - pretty much what his brothers and sisters do."

Thomson, a sixth-grader at Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School, plays Ralph Herdman, the oldest child in a family of mean kids. "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and shows at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Northern Light United Church, 400 11th St.

The one-act play is based on a book in which the seemingly awful Herdman kids join a church's annual Christmas pageant. The play, directed by J. Althea and produced by Northern Light Junior Theatre, features a cast of 17 middle-school-age actors and three adults.

"It's a classic children's book for the Gen-X generation," Althea said. "It was written by a lady in Seattle, Barbara Robinson, and came out in early '80s or late '70s. It was also made into a movie with Loretta Swit."

Althea said that as the play progresses, the distinction blurs between the "good" kids and the "bad" kids.

For the past five years, Althea's Douglas Youth Drama Association worked with about 100 children on plays such as "Archie and Pals" and "The Night the Forest Cried." This year she moved the program to Northern Light United Church, and "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" will be staged in the church's sanctuary.

Althea formed the Douglas group to offer drama opportunities to kids 11 to 14, and she is continuing that at Northern Light Church. Auditions are not required and young actors who maintain the appropriate focus, behavior and attendance requirement are welcome to participate.

"I like to work with middle-school-age students," Althea said. "There is very little available to kids of that age."

The three performances of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" are free, but donations will be accepted.

Riley Woodford can be reached at rileyw@juneauempire.com.

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