By Lacy Hilliard
The joyful sounds of laughter, children singing, and bells ringing filled Heritage Hall on Friday November 1 and Saturday November 2 as the Johnson County Young Artists performed the Christmas classic Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus.
The story of Yes, Virginia is based on historical truths when eight-year-old Virginia OHanlon asked her father, Dr. Phillip OHanlon whether or not Santa Claus existed. Dr. OHanlon encouraged his daughter to write a letter to the editor of The Sun, a popular New York newspaper back in the mid to late 1800s. And so, the story of Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus was born.
The timeless story has recently been given new life when Macys department store offered drama programs throughout the country the opportunity to perform Yes, Virginia and receive a grant to aid in the production. In tandem with the offer is a deal with the Make-A-Wish Foundation in which Macys will donate one dollar for each letter written to Santa up to one million dollars.
The JCYA production of Yes, Virginia was well attended and well received by proud parents and members of the community. Starring as Virginia OHanlon was Emma Robinson. This was Robinsons first lead role in a JCYA production and she took the challenge in stride. Her sweet voice and heartwarming smile brought the character of Virginia to life and Robinson never faltered throughout heavy dialogue and plentiful solos.
Dominick Kelley starred as Virginias best friend Ollie. With a shy confidence and an award worthy knack for tugging at the audiences heartstrings, Kelley personified Ollie like a pro.
Abigail Arnett shined as bright as ever in the role of the Librarian. Arnett has starred in several JCYA productions and has a talent for capturing the audience. Her performance in Yes, Virginia was no exception. Arnett has a flare for the dramatics like none other. A natural actress, Abigail Arnett is always a joy to watch on the Heritage Hall stage.
The role of Mr. Church was portrayed by Jacob Ward. Ward was hilariously entertaining at the grouchy Mr. Church sputtering lines like I hate Christmas and I was never young. The audience was in stitches as Ward shooed wayward pigeons while always staying true to his cantankerous character.
Deklan Thomas was cast as Scraggly Santa; a loveable but down on his luck former employee of Mr. Church. Thomas is a JCYA veteran and has also performed in Johnson County Community Theatre productions. The talented Deklan Thomas portrayed the kindhearted Scraggly with a deep understanding of his character so apparent; he commanded the Heritage Hall stage.
Cassidy Lakatos played the role of the sassy and spoiled Charlotte. Charlottes icy white cat, Mrs. Whiskers (Aden Thomas) is the perfect match to her icy personality and Cassidy Lakatos owned her villainous role with expertise. Armed with a plethora of ill willed retorts, Lakatos managed bring likeability to the hopelessly unlikeable.
The various townspeople were portrayed by the following; The Jolly Gentleman Jonathan Wilcox, the Mailman Rory Springer, the Poultry seller Sierra Greene, the Baker Chloe Pennington, the Tree Seller Samantha Manuel, a mother and her child Maddi Edington and Julia Cruise, and a mother and her infant Emilee Scott. Almost every townsperson was required to make a costume change during the performance, some changing into one of the Around the World Santas and others becoming newsboys. Maddi Edington, Samantha Manuel, and Emilee Scott made three costume changes throughout the performance. The trio easily transitioned to each role with percision and dramatic excellence.
Also members of the ensemble, the pigeons were played by Elora Hilliard, Ivy Lakatos, Lacey Payne, and Emma Savery. Constant companions of Scraggly Santa; the four pigeons easily cooed their way into the hearts of audience members.
The Johnson County Young Artists production of Yes, Virginia was directed by Lisa Zeggert and Katie Walsh. Helping out backstage was Aisia Robbins. Lights and sound were engineered by Bob Morrison, Chase McGlamery, and Andy Zeggert. The set was constructed by BJ Lakatos, Freddy Norris, Richard Walsh, Cristy Dunn and the JCHS Art Department, and the JCHS Drama Department. Special acknowledgements were given to Ann Kyte, the Heritage Hall Board of Directors, and the dedicated parents of JCYA members.
The Johnson County Young Artists Board of Directors would like to invite children of the community to write letters to Santa and mail them to JCYA President Ruth Ann Osborne at 211 North Church Street, Mountain City, TN 37683. They will then be forwarded to Macys and count as Make-A-Wish donations.
Be sure to catch the JCYA as they team up with the Johnson County High School Players for whats sure to be an unforgettable performance of The Wizard of Oz. The Wizard of Oz will take the Heritage Hall stage in spring of 2014.