Hays Community Theatre back in action for Christmas
Hays Community Theatre director Cheryl Glassman earlier this fall was asked to assemble a local ensemble to perform a song for a virtual Christmas variety show out of New York City.
Glassman’s instinctive reply reflected the universal desire for relief from COVID-19 and everything else that’s happened this year.
“We need a little Christmas,” Glassman on Tuesday evening recalled saying. “I did, I actually said that.”
Coincidentally, the annual New York-based show this year is titled “We Need A Little Christmas.” Produced by the musical theater production company HiGlass Productions, it will showcase talent across the country in more than 20 pre-recorded songs, skits and special performances. All the pre-recorded guest performances will be assembled into a single video, with two live hosts, to stream free on YouTube Live at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17. The YouTube Live link will be posted on the Facebook event page the day of the show.
The performance has brought a little life back to the downtown Hays theater, 121 E. 8th, which for the most part went dark last March. That’s when rehearsals and shows for the year were canceled by the virus, with the exception of the theater’s annual haunted walking tour downtown on Halloween.
But Tuesday evening the theater was back in action for rehearsal and then recording of the Christmas ensemble’s assigned song for the New York show, “Put A Little Love In Your Heart.”
Some might remember the song, used as a Christmas number, from the 1988 movie “Scrooged!,” performed by Annie Lennox and Al Green. The song was originally sung in 1969 by Jackie DeShannon.
“I have about 10 performers, we’ve met a few times in this space. We wear masks to practice, the chairs are set up about 6 feet apart when we’re rehearsing,” Glassman said. “I’ve got people doing solos and duets, and we break up the parts, and it’s been a lot of fun.”
The Hays singers range from young to old, and different walks of life, from retirees, to nurses to a chaplain.
“I think my oldest singer is 75, and the youngest is ... ” Glassman paused to think, then hollered across the theater to Brook Leiker. “Hey Brook, how old are you?
“And how old is Addy?”
“I put out kind of an APB and asked different individuals if they were available, some were and some were in quarantine,” said Glassman, a co-founder in 2009 of the theater’s forerunner, Heartland Community Theatre. “I took the first 10 I heard from. I didn’t want to go more than 10 just because with the restrictions I wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable.”
Also performing a reading for the New York show, in a separately pre-recorded video, will be Brenda Meder, executive director of the Hays Arts Council.
The ensemble Tuesday evening cheered when Glassman announced Tuesday evening that “We need a little Christmas” was previewed on the popular online daily news site that covers Broadway World, which covers Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional and international theater productions.
New York producer HiGlass was co-founded by Glassman’s daughter and Hays native Sarah Glassman, in partnership with Florida native Ryan Hiers.
HiGlass produces cabarets, giving new talent and emerging artists the opportunity to perform in the competitive New York theater environment.
Sarah Glassman, who lives and works in New York, is a 2000 graduate of Thomas More Prep-Marian High School.
The annual HiGlass Christmas show is normally performed before a live audience, Glassman said.
The virtual show is proving a welcome activity for the Hays artists.
“I know for the people here tonight, they’re very excited,” Glassman said at Tuesday’s rehearsal. “Because once you’re a performer in theater, it just gets under your skin. A lot of these people have been waiting for something to come up that they can be part of.”
Glassman’s hope is that the performance, and the overall show will be a welcome respite for the audience too.
“It’s going to celebrate the holidays since we all could use a little Christmas spirit. You know everywhere you turn there’s so much gloom and doom out there,” said Glassman, who retired in January as a nurse from Hays Medical Center.
“It’s heartbreaking for me to think of all the people that are going through such trauma and terrible things,” Glassman said. “The song we’re doing is just perfect, it’s all about rekindling the hope and the joy of Christmas and putting love in your heart. And that’s what we really need to be doing. The words of this song are just perfect for what needs to be done in the world today.”