Inside Look: A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas

My typical role when it comes to the stage has been that of performer. I love the attention it brings, and it feels amazing to stand up there, portraying this character in all her complexity. Performance is my chief passion, but every so often the chance presents itself to step behind the scenes and create in a different way. That has been my experience as co-director of “A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas.”

  At the read through in September.

At the read through in September.

The Yorkshire Playhouse is a loving and collaborative community. When I expressed that I was not going to be able to be involved in this show due to time constraints, Cheryl Ratliff was willing to come alongside me and we sort of fell into our roles as co-assistant directors for Judy Andrews. The fact that we were both able to flex our limited schedules and make it work for each other to be involved has been such a blessing, only made possible by our group of fantastically understanding volunteers.

While at rehearsals I would often take notes alongside Judy (and I know Cheryl did as well on the nights she was there). I appreciate Judy so much because she takes a very team-oriented approach to the creative process. She is not above taking someone’s suggestion to heart. I’ve known many people who won’t accept a good idea unless they think of it themselves. I’m grateful that Judy welcomed input with an open mind and heart, so Cheryl and I could become an even greater part of the work.

For the first time in my theatrical life I got to play with sound design! Many environmental soundscapes were needed for this show--a horse drawn wagon in a rainstorm, a hustling and bustling hotel, Christmas Eve--all of these tracks had to be built from the ground up and it was my privilege to do so. To demonstrate what went on in that process, I will use the Christmas Eve soundscape.

The first thing I started with was wind. I knew we needed to hear that winter gale nipping at the windows and whining around the cracks. But how to make it feel like winter? It was a long shot, but I searched and eventually found a recording of snow falling. It was so quiet, you could barely hear it above the other sounds but it added a certain magical element to it. The Ingalls, as most people at this time, had a fire place and so I added the sounds of a crackling fire to the mix. At one point, a grandfather clock chimes. The final touch was a beautiful rendition of Silent Night on the violin by Jaclyn Spivey, recorded specifically for this production. This was the final result, and it is played in the show during the Christmas Eve scene to really give a sense of the environment with our minimalistic set. Please enjoy:

Working with the cast and Judy as our director has been a wonderful experience. We have had ups and downs, as always happens, but in the end we are all closer and better friends than before. I hope you get a chance to come and see our work--the play begins on a sad note, which makes the ending just that much happier. I can just about guarantee that when you leave the theatre your heart will be filled with gratitude and Christmas spirit.