‘Christmas’ running ahead of schedule
Hope comes to sleepy town in all for One productions’ The Christmas Express
The temperature is dropping, the days are getting shorter, and you may be feeling as gloomy as the gray sky that has replaced the sunny days of summer. This is a perfect time to take a journey, and all for One productions invites you aboard The Christmas Express for an adventure you can enjoy with your family.
According to the theater’s website, “The Christmas Express takes us to the train station of a sleepy backwater town in fly-over country. It’s Christmas Eve, but no one is happy. The station is so idle it may be closed permanently, the manager is grumpy, the local residents are variously struggling with job or family woes. Then, Leo Tannenbaum arrives on The Christmas Express, a train that’s not on the schedule. And everything, and everybody, starts to change.”
This town, it seems, is not so different from our very own Fort Wayne, which situated in a state with a motto, “The Crossroads of America.” With railroad tracks just about everywhere you go, local residents could picture this story taking place right here in town.
“This little town of Holly, they’re feeling pretty hopeless, but by the end of the story they realize there’s plenty of reason to have hope,” all for One artistic director Lauren Nichols said.
‘place for everyone here’
The cast have been working hard to prepare to deliver this message of hope through their performance of The Christmas Express. Auditions were held in late May, and those cast have been practicing three evenings a week since September.
This is a lot of time and effort to put in, but the cast wouldn’t have it any other way.
“One of the things that I love about our shows is the sense of comradery,” Nichols said. “We spend a lot of time together, and we really do become a family.”
The bond between the cast members was evident when I walked into their rehearsal space. There was plenty of laughter filling the room, and even some extra-crispy (admittedly burnt) brownies that a cast member had brought in to share. There was also a sense of deep care and compassion for one another as they started their rehearsal with time for prayer and fellowship.
“There is a place for everyone here,” Nichols said.
Familiar Faces On, Off Stage
With that kind of comradery, it’s not surprising, that a majority of this cast have appeared in all for One shows before, according to executive director Stacey Kuster.
“All but one member of this cast is a returner,” she said. “Once people experience the supportive community we have at all for One, they want to keep being part of it.”
Kuster actually makes an appearance in this show, albeit briefly … but important.
“I’m on stage for about 10 minutes in this show, but I can’t tell you about my role, because that would give the ending away,” she said. “You’ll just have to see the show to find out what it is!”
In addition to the incredible on-stage cast, this show is being brought to life by a team of dedicated volunteers that perform mostly behind the scenes.
A recent Facebook post by all for One showed two volunteers utilizing their carpentry skills to create props for the show. Volunteers can also be found running lighting and sound for shows, as well as handing out programs and ushering, among many more tasks.
Exciting New Space
This is one of a handful of shows all for One has rehearsed in their new space at the former Zion Lutheran Academy building, where they moved about a year and a half ago.
“For us, being in the new space feels amazing,” Nichols said.
Nichols described the advantages of having the extra space this larger building provides, including the ability to store props.
“Our props get to stay in one place now,” she said. “Before, we could only practice with the props once it got closer to the final rehearsals, because we couldn’t move them back and forth easily.”
Nichols also talked about how useful it is to be able to store their costumes and have the costume shop in the same space they rehearse.
“Since we get to have all the costumes stored here, our costumer can adapt quickly to the needs of the actors,” she said.
The sense of excitement that every member of the organization has about being in this new space is tangible; you can feel it in the air.
Hope for Holly, Hope for Fort Wayne
The cast wants to bring the hope from the Town of Holly to the City of Fort Wayne.
“The theme of hope is very overt in this show,” Nichols said. “There is a real sense that the characters live in a community where people know you and care about you.”
If the cast can leave their audience with just a little more joy, light, and a hope this holiday season, they will have achieved their goal.
“We have lived through some dark times recently,” Nichols said. “We need to hold on to hope”
To purchase tickets for The Christmas Express, go to allforonefw.org or artstix.org.