Isolated Alaskan Village Hosts Christmas Pageant
ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:
Annie Feidt of the Alaska Public Radio Network dropped by to watch a few rehearsals.
ANNIE FEIDT: John Freeman(ph) isn't just a school principal in Aniak, he's the director, playwright and even costume designer of the Christmas pageant. He's ready to do an early read-through of the new play with the kids. But, first, he delivers a pep talk.
JOHN FREEMAN: Unidentified Group: Oh, wow.
FEIDT: Down the hall in the school gym, Gwendolyn Brock(ph) is teaching the chorus, 10 songs woven throughout the play. But before the kids can sing, they need to organize.
GWENDOLYN BROCK: Unidentified Group: Christmas tree.
BROCK: Christmas tree for the number five.
FEIDT: Principal Freeman wants all 100 kids from kindergarteners through 12th- graders involved in the performance.
FREEMAN: I'm always a little tense, but I've done enough of these and watched enough kids do this that I know initially it's a little slow building, but I don't want them to peak until the night of the performance.
FEIDT: Unidentified Child #2: That's a great idea. Their sleigh sales have been slow because of the downturn of the economy.
FEIDT: Traditional themes in the play take on new meaning in the remote Alaskan village. Those sleighs look a lot like dog sleds. And as the reindeer ranch set was going up, thousands of the wild version - caribou - pass nearby. But in many ways, the pageant isn't so different from thousands of others taking place across the country.
BROCK: Ready to sing.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ROCKIN' AROUND THE CHRISTMAS TREE")
BROCK AND CHILDREN: (Singing) You will get a sentimental feeling when you hear voices singing let's be jolly, deck the halls with boughs of holly.
FEIDT: The audience will line the walls of the gym at tonight's performance - standing room only. Principal Freeman anticipates his kids will bring down the house.
FREEMAN: Once the lights come on and the set is there and the people start showing up, I'm telling you, you could light Alaska with the energy that gets produced backstage.
FEIDT: And as for whether the mayor ever finds help decorating the town square, I won't give that away, but the title might. It's called "Christmas is all in the Heart."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
FEIDT: For NPR News, I'm Annie Feidt.
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