SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The story that is unfolding for the next four days in Aberdeen goes like this:
Beth, a big city news reporter, has no time for holiday nonsense when she suddenly inherits the Evergreen Inn in Christmasville, Canada. Can Santa, an elf, and a handsome, plaid-clad tree farmer help Beth regain her Christmas spirit and pursue her true passion?
If it sounds familiar, it’s supposed to because Aberdeen playwright Michelle Schaunaman took what is described as a “love, hate” relationship with Hallmark holiday movies and wrote her own parody play called “A Hollimark Christmas for Beth.”
The play is a production of the Aberdeen Community Theatre. It opened Wednesday night and continues through Sunday, Nov. 19.
“The honesty in this show and in Hallmark movies comes from the fact that we all just want to be happy. We want to reach our dreams. We want to fall in love, we just want to be happy,” Schaunaman said.
But Schaunaman also believes the situations in many of those movies are not realistic and they have a pattern or formula. So, at the suggestion of director Brian Schultz, she created her own play.
“I mean people either love Hallmark movies or they hate Hallmark movies,” Schultz said. It’s easy to make a snarky comment about one of the movies, or laugh at them, he said.
“What would happen if we took that and pushed it even farther and let everybody have an opportunity to laugh at them as much as we do,” Schultz said of why he suggested Schaunaman write a parody play based on Hallmark holiday movies.
The audience is invited to laugh with the silly, saccharine-sweet dialogue, Schultz said, but the actors play characters who have natural reactions.
“Things happen to these characters more on the ridiculous side; they still react like regular people do,” Schultz said.
Nicole Christiansen plays the main character Beth who is surrounded by situations of exaggerated possibility. She describes her role as honest reactions to what other characters are saying. She’s reacting to what’s happening in the moment.
The result is fun, Christiansen said.
Creating the fun and making the audience laugh takes time. The production group has rehearsed about three hours a night for up to five nights a week for some time.
Schaunaman has appreciated watching Schultz’s direction of her play during rehearsals. Sometimes, it matches her vision, and sometimes, it does not. When it doesn’t, “that doesn’t mean I’m disappointed,” she said.
“It’s really cool to watch people bring your work to life,” Schaunaman said of rehearsals.
The actors provide a larger sense of the characters in her written words, she said Although the play is a parody, Schaunaman said she was deliberate in creating a main female character in her 30s to 40s that an actor could “sink their teeth into.”
Christiansen, who does not watch Hallmark movies, said “I want it to be my character.” She approached it as how should would respond or react in the play’s story.
The play opened Wednesday night to an appreciative audience that laughed through the performance, the trio said.
“As an actor it was very rewarding. The audience was very into the show,” Christiansen said.
Tickets for the performances are available through the Aberdeen Community Theatre. The theatre company is in its 43rd year.