Bath arts center hosts 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever'

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BATH — “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” is working hard to live up to its name.

Written by Barbara Robinson, it’s the comedic story of six delinquent children of the Herdman family who take over a Christmas pageant and, along with some adults, learn important lessons about love and understanding.

The show runs at the Chocolate Church Arts Center, 804 Washington St., from Thursday, Dec. 19, to Sunday, Dec. 22.

Hearing about a church that offers snacks, the Herdman kids end up scoring roles in the Sunday school’s Christmas play, to the chagrin of other church members. The story is told in a non-conventional way, and the results of the Herdmans’ performance surprises them and the town alike.

“It’s a story about a ragtag group of kids that really come to have an understanding of what’s important, and I’ve found that it’s kind of a microcosm of what’s happening at the Chocolate Church as well,” Jennifer DeChant, executive director of the arts center, said last week. “We’re all working really hard to make this happen, and we have moments of clarity of how this can really work, and this pageant production is an example of that.”

The play includes dozens of children, directed by Wayne Otto. The Davenport Trust Foundation is underwriting the cost of tickets, helping families in need, the elderly and students attend the performance, according to the arts center.

“We’re really excited; it’s actually turning out to be the jewel in the crown of our holiday experience,” DeChant said, noting that the pageant is “indicative of the community coming together, not only in the play. … It’s turning out to be a nice gift for the community, and it’s a nice piece of evidence of what a community theater can do.”

She said the center is transitioning from a music locale to a community arts center. She noted in an email Tuesday that the center had in the past several years “positioned itself as a music venue with a business model that cannot support such direction,” and that her vision has been to “diversify offerings with theater, visual art and local musicians for more of community arts center.”

The new operating model “is based on sponsorship to cover a dramatically reduced number (of) performances,” of artists from outside of Maine,” she said, and “instead highlighting local talent and developing programs that begin with foundation support and can eventually create a revenue stream.”

DeChant added that there is indication the center is pursuing the right path.

“The transition from solely music venue and producing events that attract diverse support is essential in boosting finances,” she wrote. “We are moving from a business model that has proven not to work to a model that can work … and we see glimpses of just how well it can work.”

Tickets are available at chocolatechurcharts.org or by calling the box office at 442-8455.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” runs at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath from Dec. 19-22. The cast of the show, about a group of deliquent siblings who discover the true meaning of Christmas, includes Quin Boyle, left, Emily Tetzlaff, Maggie Chipman, Kevin McCoy, Courtney Bodeen, Emily Minott, and Tyler Bodeen.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.