Ever wondered why people put up Christmas lights?
Well, just check with the elves that live at Payson Elementary School: They can tell you all about it.
The riot of six- and seven-year-olds last week staged a time-honored tradition for elementary students and their families: the holiday play.
And for the first time ever, they revealed the secret of Christmas lights as imagined by a teacher turned playwright.
Marti Shipley, one of the nine PES first-grade teachers, wrote the play entitled “The Gleamers.”
The size of the three classes participating inspired Shipley to write the play.
“I was looking for a Christmas play that would be easy enough for our students to do and also include a large number of students. I had no success finding one I liked,” she said. So she wrote her own.
She does not have an official background in theatre arts, but she has performed in many productions through her church.
Organizing all the six- and seven-year-old first-graders to perform requires the patience of an angel.
The three first-grade teachers who participated in the show — Shipley, Bree Lloyd and Karen Ormand — have what it takes.
For Shipley, the hardest part of putting on the play was finding the time and place to practice. The school has no auditorium or space large enough to put on a production as large as this play, said Shipley.
The only space available at PES is in the cafeteria. Because the stage takes up so much room, it crowds out the needs of the lunch space. As a result, the students and teachers only had the chance to practice on stage one time before the performance, said Shipley.
Shipley picked her main characters based on students who could read well and those who had the self-confidence to carry a major part.
The play tells the story of Marvin, a relative of Ruldolf.
Just like their ancestor, Rudolf’s descendants have glowing noses, for which they get teased. When Santa’s Christmas party loses all its lights due to an electrical failure, Marvin and his cousins save the day. Their noses light the pathway to Santa’s house.
Preparations for the performance started at 12:45. The children could barely contain their excitement.
“We practiced like 60 times,” said Xander Kurpuis as she stood dressed as a tree.
The three teachers mixed up the classes to dress in costumes.
“We tried to make it so each class is involved in each part,” said Ormand. Shipley’s class had the elves, tin soldiers, Santa and Mrs. Claus. Ormand’s had the reindeer and narrators. Lloyd’s class organized the trees and guests to Santa’s party.
All three teachers contributed time and resources to sew and prepare the costumes. They also put together the scenery.
Each student brought home an invitation to the play. By 1:20 the cafeteria buzzed with excitement. Parents put out cookies and punch for refreshments after the play. The children lined up on the risers in their costumes, squirming with excitement.
At 1:30, Shipley started the play.
The opening song: “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Shipley sat at the front of the stage whispering lines to students who forgot. At one point, an elf stood on a stool to reach the microphone saying, “Santa, the sleigh is ready.”
The play lasted half an hour. Parents laughed and clapped happily.
As the students put away their costumes and parents lined up to take them home, one parent pulled Shipley aside to say, “You should be published.”