OTTUMWA – What does it mean to be American during the holidays? Immigrant stories come to life on stage as Indian Hills Community College Theatre travels back in time in Coney Island Christmas on Thursday, Dec. 5, Friday, Dec. 6, and Saturday, Dec. 7 in St. John Auditorium on the IHCC Ottumwa campus. Performances will be at 7:30 p.m. all three nights and there is free admission, but patrons are encouraged to reserve seats by calling 641-683-5144.
According to director Dr. Jennifer Boyenga, “Coney Island Christmas gave the cast exciting opportunities to expand their skills, from individuals learning to work on multiple characters, to developing plausible Brooklyn accents. But the students have risen to the challenge to create this charming memory play.”
Coney Island Christmas is a timeless story filled with merriment and nostalgia. Boyenga says, “This is a true feel-good play to get you in the holiday spirit.” It is a play for all ages and faiths.
The play is based on a short story, “The Loudest Voice,” published by Grace Paley in 1959, adapted by Pulitzer Prize winning author Donald Margulies and first performed in 2012 in Los Angeles.
“This show seems simple on the surface,” says technical director Dr. Ray Slavens. “But once we got into it, the set, costumes, props, lighting, and sound all provided fun challenges.”
The story centers on Great-Grandma Shirley, played by Chance Bender (Pleasantville), and great-granddaughter Clara, played by Mckenzie Hammes (What Cheer), who is about to perform in her first school Christmas pageant, if she gets over her sore throat. As Shirley reminisces about her childhood during the Great Depression, she and Clara travel through time and space from southern California to a long ago Brooklyn, New York, where we meet Shirley’s parents, Mr. Abramowitz, played by Joseph Culp (Pleasantville), and Mrs. Abramowitz, played by Peyton Nelson (Ottumwa). We also meet Shirley’s earlier self, played by Inigo O’Brien (Ottumwa). At school, as teachers Mr. Hilton, played by David Halvorsen (Ottumwa), and Miss Glace, played by Katrina Sample (Albia), prepare for their Christmas pageant, they wonder who will be the best performer to play the lead role.
Rounding out the ensemble are Grace Peterson (Madrid), Emma Mock (Eddyville), Tate Padilla (Albia), Pablo Alvarado (Ottumwa), Nadja Shulz (Hamburg, Germany), Jorge Saavedra (Wapello), Zachari Thomas (Greeley, Colorado), Eric Schutt (Eddyville), Troy Neumann (Cedar Rapids), Erlinda Aldaba (Ottumwa), Dorcas Mpanda (Milan, Missouri), and Kyle and Joshua Schurman (Melcher-Dallas).
Tom Shadonix, IHCC instructor of instrumental music, is the piano accompanist for the show, and Dr. Janene Sheldon, vocal music professor at Indian Hills, taught the students the songs for the show, as well as how to perform not too perfectly.
Stage manager for the show is Chance Bender (Pleasantville). Other members of the tech crew include Lily Arney (Ottumwa) as sound-board operator, Alexandria Young as light board operator, Ben Ahrens (Montezuma) as scene shop manager, and Katie Batterson (Ottumwa) as head of the costume crew.
Becs Bartle, an IHCC alumnus and professional lighting designer from Chicago, will return to Ottumwa to design the lighting for Coney Island Christmas.