‘The Best Christmas Pageant Ever’ to raise funds for Gil Morrison Memorial Scholarship Fund
SANDWICH – Shari Chapman of Newark describes her family as more of a “sports family,” but that title may soon have to change to “theater family.”
Chapman, her husband, Phil, and two of their five children, Molly, 12, and Reggie, 10, are cast members of an upcoming production of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.”
“I was originally taking my daughter to the audition, so I thought my son would like to go, too,” Chapman said. “Then I was so excited about the play that I signed myself and my husband up. I think it’s just a super cute, fun Christmas story. I love the story and the ending. The play has had a really big impact on our family, even though we’re just a small part of the play.”
Performances of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Sandwich Opera House, 140 E. Railroad St. in Sandwich. Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased at the door or online at Eventbrite. Each performance will include a charity raffle for unique gift baskets and a small post-performance reception to meet the cast and crew.
The cast includes roles for 21 children and eight adults, and features community actors from Sandwich, Somonauk, Yorkville and Newark.
All proceeds from the event benefit the Gil Morrison Memorial Scholarship Fund, which is awarded annually at Sandwich High School. Applicants are evaluated anonymously based on GPA, financial need and involvement in school and community activities by a committee of local educators.
The Gil Morrison Memorial Scholarship Foundation was established after Morrison’s death in January 2017. Morrison’s legacy involves a 34-year career in education, including teaching at Sandwich schools and serving at the county and state level. He coached sports and speech teams, directed theater and taught language arts, social studies and the Challenge program for Sandwich schools. From 2003 to 2012, he served as the regional superintendent of DeKalb County.
The play is co-directed by Jaye Morrison, Gil’s widow, and Sheila Thompson. Morrison’s daughter, Corinne Holloway, is the show’s producer. Music is produced by Nika Morton.
Jaye Morrison said “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” was chosen for the fundraiser because her husband had starred in it 30 years ago at the Sandwich Opera House.
“The show is a family favorite and the book the play is based off of is very popular,” Jaye Morrison said. “The play is about the real meaning of Christmas and celebrates inclusion.”
The story centers around the Herdman siblings, described as “the worst kids in the history of the world.” The Herdmans show up at church for the free snacks and decide to take over the annual Christmas pageant – even though none of them have ever even heard the Christmas story before.
“The story evokes a sense of family and community, which fits the holiday season perfectly,” Holloway said. “It’s a happy coincidence that it’s the same weekend as the downtown Sandwich holiday events.”
During the same weekend, Dec. 1 and 2, A Sandwich Christmas, hosted by the Sandwich Area Chamber of Commerce and the Sandwich Park District, will be held. The event will feature the Kris Kringle Craft and Home Business Show and Festival of Trees at the Sandwich Fairgrounds. The tree-lighting ceremony will be at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1 in Veterans Park. There also will be a trolley tour of decorated homes and a Christmas village with Santa Claus.
“The play is a real community effort and it’s taken a huge group of volunteers to put it together,” Thompson said. “It’s a great opportunity to get in the spirit of Christmas, spend time with family and friends, honor the memory of Gil Morrison and help local students with scholarships.”
To donate to the Gil Morrison Memorial Scholarship Fund, visit www.gofundme.com/gil-morrison-memorial-scholarship.