“It was a good Christmas, because we had love; we had each other. And in the final accounting, that’s what it’s all about after all.”
This is one of adult Ralph’s final lines in the play version of “A Christmas Story,” and it’s a message the Desert Stages Theatre cast hopes is the major takeaway for audiences Nov. 27-Dec. 20 as it returns to live theater with its traditional holiday production of “A Christmas Story, The Play.”
“We have had such a good time putting this show together and getting to know each other,” said Director KatiBelle Collins, calling the cast a “fun and talented group.
“The kids are so funny, the adults dedicated.”
“A Christmas Story” boasts 11 local actors, including first-time Desert Stages performer Bobby Havens, who plays Adult Ralph.
“Adult Ralph has a great story to tell, and I want to help him tell it. I am exactly like adult Ralph in that I have his expressive imagination inside of me, too,” Havens said. “I am just a kid in a big body with a huge imagination. So, adult Ralph is me.”
Also new Cherokee Elementary School fifth grader, Charlie Budd, who plays Ralphie Parker.
“Ralphie fits my personality and has a great imagination,” Charlie, 10, said, adding that his favorite scene to when Ralphie finally fights back against bully Scut Farkus.
“Because I get to chase him and pretend to hit him while saying all these crazy made-up words,” Charlie said.
For both Havens and Collins, the most rewarding part of putting on this play is working with the cast, which is currently in the fourth week of rehearsals.
“As in any role, I love the people I work with – getting to know them, interacting with them in real life and on stage, learning their story, encouraging them, being with them for hours at a time,” Havens said. “Theater is my family, and I love spending quality time with my family.”
The most challenging part of putting on this play, however, is the ever-changing set.
“Anytime you take a play from a movie, it’s difficult,” said Collins, who has been a director at Desert Stages for about 10 years. “This play has so many locations, and it slips in and out of fantasy sections. The set alone is a challenge, but this experience has stretched my directing skills.”
“As Desert Stages Theatre slowly and safely re-opens, we consider ourselves extremely fortunate that our first show back will benefit from KatiBelle’s wealth of knowledge, talent, and experience,” the company states in a release.
The family-friendly play promises a “two-hour escape from life in 2020.”
But that doesn’t mean audiences won’t see new health and safety protocols.
Seating capacity is limited to 50 percent. Each party will remain socially distant from the next group or person in line, as ushers show audience members to their seats.
Staff will take temperatures at the stage door, sending home actors with a temperature of more than 100.4 degrees.
Face masks must be worn and hand sanitizing stations will be available in the lobby and at main entry points; all touch surfaces will be sanitized prior to and during each performance.
Desert Stages also offers digital shows, and after the show, audiences will be led out of the theater in an organized fashion to avoid crowding.
“In this time of a pandemic, I truly understand people’s concerns and fears,” Collins said. “We have and are following all guidelines to keep the cast and audiences safe.”
Collins added that she hopes audiences will simply enjoy watching a live performance again and will “find a couple of hours free of the stress and craziness of the season.”
“I hope that people will come out to enjoy a talented cast doing a fun and funny show that will make them laugh – and put them in the holiday mood.”
Tickets are $25 and available by calling 480-483-1664 or visiting desertstages.org.