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Christmas play raises food for South Hall Pantry
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Lindsey Bocech, right, and the cast members of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” rehearse a scene Tuesday evening at The Springs Church.

‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’

When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Springs Church, 6553 Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch
How much: Admission is an item of nonperishable food

A church and a community theater group have teamed up for a Christmas production they hope will put audiences in a festive — and perhaps reflective — mood as well as serve a good cause.

Fifth Row Center and The Springs Church are set to perform the play "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" at 6 p.m. Sunday at the church at 6553 Spout Springs Road in South Hall.

The play is free, but the church and theater group are asking audience members to donate nonperishable food items.

The food will go to the South Hall Food Pantry, a ministry of The Springs, St. Gabriel’s Episcopal, Oakwood First United Methodist, Christ Lutheran and East Lanier Community churches.

The pantry "is running low on supplies, so we just really want to bless them with a whole truckload of food, if we can," said Donna Chalmers, artistic director for Fifth Row.

The play features actors from Fifth Row, also based in southern Hall County, and The Springs Church.

"It is a wonderful, funny, funny play about a woman who is forced to cast like the worst children in town for this Christmas play that she’s doing in her church," Chalmers said.

"These are like the juvenile delinquents that nobody ever wants to sit next to them in school because they are lighting things on fire and swinging cats around and doing all kinds of horrible things."

The children wreak "havoc on the play, on everybody, on the church," Chalmers said.

But the deeper they go into the play, they begin to ask questions, such as if Jesus is "called the king, then why in the world was he born in a stinky manger?"

"They start asking questions that force everyone to look at the Christmas story in a fresh light," Chalmers said. "So, the meaning of this play gets very serious at the end."

The play is based on a 1972 book by Barbara Robinson that was made into a TV movie in 1983.

Fifth Row is glad to help out in the play’s production, Chalmers said.

The church "has given us so much in allowing us to use their facility for rehearsals and performance space (for previous productions)," she said.

Renee Hanna, a Fifth Row performer and church member, is directing the play.

Jeannette Peterman, children’s minister at the church, said the play is a first-time stage experience for many of the church’s children and older youth.

"It’s a first-time thing for (many) of us," she said. "... This is our (church’s) first attempt at a real play."

Peterman also is hoping the pantry can meet a real need, especially with the failing economy.

"There are a lot of people in need," she said.

The pantry is open 3-5 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m.-noon Thursdays and Saturdays. It’s located at Oakwood First United, which is at 4315 Allen St. behind the Oakwood City Pool.

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