Every Christmas, we can expect certain things to show up that we identify with the season. Snow, Christmas lights, holiday parties, and certain TV shows that show up year after year. Charlie Brown’s Christmas, Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, and of course, A Christmas Story.
“A Christmas Story” is the story of a boy, Ralphie, that lives in the fictional town of Hohman, Indiana, based upon Hammond- the town that the writer of the story, Jean Shepherd, grew up in. Every year, the classic 1983 movie is played on almost every TV station and has been ingrained upon our collective cultural consciousness.
Started in 2012, the musical expands upon the classic movie and the book its based upon- and the Memorial Opera House has included it this year in their play season. The Memorial Opera House has recently gone through a renaissance of sorts, thanks to Scot MacDonald, Executive Director of the theatre.
“We have, in the last year that I’ve been the director,” he said excitedly, “been moving the direction of the Opera House at a very fast pace. We’ve increased the quality of the shows, the fundraising, and the amount of children in the Lime Lights Program. Last year we had 14 kids registered, this year we had 176.”
“We’re bringing in the right people doing the right things, and that’s the formula for our success,” MacDonald explained. “As we move forward, it’s just going to keep getting better. And for Valparaiso and beyond, it’s just going to keep improving the quality of life. That’s what the arts and theater is all about.”
Indeed, the Opera House is, after almost 130 years, looking to be updated, and that is what this year’s campaign is all about.
“Tonight’s event is a special recognition for our long-time volunteers of the Opera House,” said Michelle Bush, Vice President of the Memorial Opera House Foundation. “We’re recognizing the growth of the Opera House. We’re showing our sponsors, donors, and volunteers “A Christmas Story”. It’s free for them so they can enjoy this wonderful show.”
Volunteers are what make the Opera House run. There are currently over 160 volunteers that help make the Opera House what it is. Even tonight’s performance was a volunteer performance by the actors.
“Our volunteers are essential to the Opera House,” said Stacy Ruiz, the Front of the House Manager. “Without them, we couldn’t do what we’re doing. All our ushers and actors are volunteers.”
“Typically, we have a pickup rehearsal every week, but we decided to turn this pickup into a full performance for our sponsors, donors and volunteers that make this possible,” said Director Bobbie Sue Kvachkoff. Kvachkoff runs the Lime Lights program for the children involved with the Opera House, as well as her own theater company, Break Off and Play Theater Co.
“I was a little apprehensive at first,” Kvachkoff explained. “This is a classic movie. So audience members have a preconception from the movie and whether this musical does the movie justice. But all the music just enhances the movie 10-fold.”
Part of tonight was presenting awards to those that were not only an integral part of making the Opera House function, but went above and beyond the call of duty. One such award was the Beulah Bondi Spirit of Memorial Opera House Award, which went to Jacki Stutzman, a board member of the Memorial Opera House Foundation and volunteer.
“I’m overwhelmed that it came to me,” Stutzman beamed. “It’s the ultimate volunteer award for this place. My family is here and I just thought they were coming to see the show. This totally took me by surprise.”
It was an incredible performance and an incredible night all around. For the audience, the volunteers, the staff, ushers and actors, it was all a passion project that came from the heart to honor those that gave so much without asking anything in return.
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