Behind the scenes of a Christmas classic

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Faculty and staff at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington performed their own rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 6. This annual show, titled “A Very DJO Christmas Carol,” brings students and their teachers together for a stage reading of this holiday classic. For this special adaptation, there were 17 roles filled by the faculty and nine roles filled by students. 

The student director who served as stage manager was senior Sarah Connors, who has been involved in the drama program for all four years of high school. She worked with a team of students behind the scenes to make the show come together seamlessly for the audience. The student crew showed up right after school to prepare the auditorium for the 7 p.m. show. Together they turned the space into a Christmas wonderland hours before the show started.

The first actual rehearsal for this program took place two hours before the show began. “I was giving light and sound cues as the show went on,” said Connors. “It was very hectic, but everyone onstage and backstage was absolutely amazing.”

“The lighting and sound people for the performance were great and so focused on the show,” Connors said. “There were many little sounds that had to be played throughout the show, like the bells chiming. And for each ghost there had to be a different color for the spotlights. Plus, with only two sets, it was difficult to find times to change the scenes correctly, but the stage crew was awesome and did an amazing job.”

The auditorium was filled with students and family members excited to watch their teachers act on stage. Religion teacher Ed Fitzpatrick, who played Bob Cratchit, felt the same excitement for himself. “It was very fun,” he said. “I had a great time performing in front of my students and family.”

Teachers were given artistic license for their characters, and their choice of costumes carried that theme. “I am a firm believer in the artistic taste of actors,” said Connors. “I wanted to see what each teacher thought the character should be like and how they should dress.” 

Every year the show is unique, with the actors creating their own twists to the classic story. This year’s performance was no exception. One memorable moment was when young Scrooge (played by science teacher Sam Pell) argued with Belle (played by science teacher Sabrina McCormack) over a small bus they referred to as “Bertha.” Another was when O’Connell’s chaplain, Father Gregory S. Thompson, used a “Godfather” accent to play the Ghost of Christmas Present as he led Scrooge (played by Father Paul Richardson) around the stage to help him find his Christmas spirit. 

“Honestly, one of my favorite parts of the play was when senior Madeline Johnson — who was using a sleeping bag to portray the image of a “dead” Scrooge — found it impossible to hop on and off stage as she had originally planned,” said Connors. “Instead, the Ghost of Christmas Future — played by science teacher Melissa Pore in a NASA astronaut outfit — comically dragged her off.”

When asked what it was like to direct her teachers, Connors said, “It was very nerve-wracking. I mean, these are the people who are in charge of my grades. And, on this occasion, they acted a bit childish or rowdy at times. I now understand what it is like to be in front of a class teaching high schoolers.”

This production of “A Very DJO Christmas” was filled with laughs and inside jokes from the very beginning to the last line. “I am so happy I was able to be a part of this great O’Connell tradition,” Connors said. 

A new part of this holiday tradition is a bake sale in the lobby of the auditorium on the evening of the show. For the past three years, O’Connell drama students have organized this fundraiser to support Catholic Charities’ Gabriel Project, a charity to help pregnant women throughout their pregnancy.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018