It’s been nearly a year since a live production was staged inside Joplin’s Stained Glass Theatre — last January’s “Alice in Wonderland,” to be exact.
Not long after that, the arrival of COVID-19 from overseas opened up a whole new type of rabbit hole, and a slate of SGT shows ready to debut during the spring and summer months were postponed or outright canceled.
Ten months and counting, said veteran director Kelly Weaver with a shake of her head — that’s how long it’s been. “It does seem like a long time.”
But the drought’s nearly over. The appropriately named “A Gift to Remember” — a Christmas-themed play — will premiere Thursday with performances through Sunday and again on Thursday, Dec. 10 through Sunday, Dec. 13. A talented cast has been in rehearsals over the past couple of months.
“It didn’t take us long to get back in the swing of things,” Weaver said. “It’s been great to be back and all be together — socially distanced, of course,” she said with a chuckle. “We are such a tight-knit group that has been hard to be apart.
“We’ve had a lot of positive responses,” Weaver continued, speaking about messages and emails received from the public. “I think people are anxious for a little bit of normal again. I know our audiences have missed us.”
In this classic story, a group of strangers traveling by train on Christmas Eve from Bangor, Maine, to Boston — a sailor, a widow, a salesman, an older couple — are suddenly stranded in a small depot in New Hampshire after a snowstorm. Understandably disappointed, the group tries to make the best of the situation. Despite initial troubles, the former strangers become friends and find a way to celebrate the true spirit of Christmas.
“I chose ‘A Gift to Remember’ because of its positive, uplifting message — we could all use that these days,” Weaver said. “It really captures the spirit we are all feeling; life is not going like it’s supposed to these days, and we can wallow in that or find ways to make the best of it and that’s what the characters in the play learn.”
The cast — consisting of a mixture of veterans and new faces, Weaver said — include: Lydia Southard, Susanna Thorton, Kenan Klein, Amanda Klein, Dan Rees, Sky Rees, Caleb Hilsenbeck, Abram Steigman, Anna Beth Trueblood, Adeline Ragsdale, Alexandria Aldridge, Sid Davis, Jared Johnston, McKayla Andrews, Mary McWethy, Jacon Gordon, Jacob Yotter, Samantha Andrews, Amber Beam and Korbin Howard. The stage manager is Daniel Wilcox.
Because of the ongoing pandemic, seating will be limited to half the theater’s capacity, with seats blocked off to create appropriate social distancing, Weaver said. Wearing masks is required.
Tickets are available via the box office, which opens 45 minutes before a show starts — tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 13 and under. Show times are 7 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays.