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Set to shine: Special stars take stage in Christmas Play

By Austin Jackson | Published Wednesday, November 21, 2018
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Strike a Pose

STRIKE A POSE – Community Church of Decatur’s “A Christmas Carol” cast took the stage for a rehearsal Wednesday night. Front row: Carmelo Palacios, Nick Allison. Middle Row: Brenda Cottrell, Sara Jesseph, Becki Hinson. Back row: Jacob Patterson, Johnny Brendeland, Mikie Ritter-Stokes, Lesli Draper. Back row: Stephen Cook, Taeden King, Tret King, Gregory Altz, Scott Cottrell. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

With a point and a nod, director Brenda Cottrell brings her cast of characters into action.

A chorus of young voices walk hand-in-hand, passing rows of pews to the stage for the Community Church of Decatur’s rendition of “A Christmas Carol.”

It’s just a rehearsal, but soon the lights will be bright and the crowds will be large. For this collection of novice actors, who are getting their first big shot at the stage, it’s a big moment.

“It’s exciting, but I’m nervous” said Becki Hinson, the ghost of Christmas present, ahead of the rehearsal. “This is my first one.”

A majority of the actors in the play have special needs. After years of being doubted in their abilities, they take the main stage as stars.

Merry Christmas to All

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL – The Community Church of Decatur’s Christmas Carol cast perform the final scenes during a rehearsal last Wednesday at the church. This is the first year the church has put on the play starring several special needs actors. Messenger photo by Austin Jackson

Actors like Nick Allison, who will perform as the ghost of Christmas future, came up with his own lines. He spooks Ebenezer Scrooge straight with his emphatic, “BOO!” as he’s wheeled onto the stage.

“He just gets it, he gets it,” Cottrell said. “He’s a natural. Our cast can do so much more than people give them credit for.”

Cottrell came up with the idea for the play months ago. She has experience in theatre. When she joined the church, she realized she had a wide array of talent that would flourish on the stage.

She soon put on her director’s hat and wrote the script for her abridged, more evangelical rendition of “A Christmas Carol.”

She’s even spliced in recorded video segments for some of her actors who would not be comfortable or able to take the stage for the performance. It’s all inclusive.

On the night of the rehearsal, she added another cast member to the chorus. She found her a place.

Cottrell has a heart for her cast and said they never fail to surpass expectations.

“[People with special needs] can do so much more than people give them credit for,” she said. “All you have to do is believe in them.”

The play will open at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 28. Another show will be at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 1. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

Cottrell said the play is not just a big moment for the actors, but also for the family and friends of Community Church of Decatur’s stars.

Allison’s mother, Lois, is brought to tears when she explains what it’s like to see her son take the stage.

“I’ve invited our entire family, and most of them are coming for him,” Lois said. “For the first time ,they’ll be coming to see him perform. Watching him, it’s awesome. ”

The cast has grown together over the past months of practice and rehearsal, spending hours perfecting the play and learning the lines. They’re friends, they’re a cast, they’re friends.

But Hinson said they’re more.

“We’re a family,” she said. “We have each others’ backs.”

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