Annual Christmas play makes unique stars

Published 6:08 pm Monday, December 12, 2016

A much-anticipated Christmas play hits the old Washington High School stage this week.

“Greater Plans” is an original play written by LifeQuest Inc. program director Adam Congleton and stars the clients of the rehabilitation day program for adults with mental health issues. LifeQuest serves, on average, 50 to 60 adults each day, according to Congleton, and for 11 of the past 12 years, since LifeQuest opened, it’s put on a Christmas play for the community.

“Greater Plans” is a play about a couple whose own holiday plans are interrupted when they find themselves sharing a hospital room with a terminally ill boy with no family. Bitter about their ruined holiday, the couple learns a valuable lesson as they are forced to witness a nurse’s reading of the story of the birth of Christ to the boy.

“This family, they end up realizing, maybe the plans we had for ourselves weren’t what we really needed,” Congleton said.

Congleton said this year’s “Greater Plans” is a version of last year’s production.

“We’ve changed a lot of the music and the characters have kind of changed depending on the people we have. We’ve added a few scenes and live animals,” Congleton said.

Congleton uses a narrator, actors and music to progress the story, which includes a re-enactment of Mary and Joseph’s ordeals in Bethlehem. The production also features such visual effects as a starry night sky on the ceiling of the auditorium and snow falling onstage. But the stars of the show are the nearly 40 cast members — the clients of the program. According to Congleton, there is never a shortage of people who want to participate in the play.

“It’s just a huge confidence boost for them to be proactive and work on something, then display it,” Congleton said.

“They like to feel like they can give back to the community, too. It makes them feel worthwhile and helps them with their esteem. … They amaze us every year with how well they do,” said Angie Hardison, owner/administrator of LifeQuest Inc. “Some of them can hardly look at you or talk to you, but they can get up there and do this.”

Many of the actors have never been onstage before, but it’s the variety of cast members and their skills that make the play unique, Congleton said, and for many, participating in the play helps the actors cope with the holidays.

“A lot of times that’s a hard time for them, be it because they don’t have family, it’s just hard — the holidays are just hard, especially if you don’t have support,” Congleton said.

For 12 years, there’s never been a lack of support from audience members. Congleton said people start calling LifeQuest in October to ask about performances.

“We have four shows and over the course of four shows, usually (we have) about 500 people,” Congleton said.

Performances are Thursday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and Friday at 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. New this year is the addition of Washington High School students playing an acoustic set of Christmas music before the Friday night show.

LifeQuest Inc. is located in the old Washington High School, 230 E. Eighth St. Performances are free to the public.