Monday, December 6, 2010

More on the Christmas Play

by Phillip Van de Ruyt

     When my family moved to Sidney, in the Christmas of 1992 (just before my second birthday), we needed to find a church close to home. We were welcomed warmly by SPPC, and have been attending ever since. Shortly after, my brother Marcus and I were asked to be involved in the Christmas pageant. Now, Marcus being the older one, was meant to play a wise man and myself a sheep. Some confusion ensued however when our names were mixed up. When I got wind however, of ‘Phillip the wise man’, I would settle for nothing less. And so the show went on, with Marcus on his hands and knees with sheep skin tied to his back, and a dwarf of a wise man. I remember little of the performance (besides sucking on my belt), but I’m told that I didn’t miss a line. Now I would be exaggerating to say that I was destined to perform from this time on, but it certainly did key my parents into an unforeseen avenue for their shy son. There were many more Christmas pageants to follow, in which I began to work my way up from sheep, to Roman soldier, and eventually back to wise man.
     In elementary school I was involved in plays and skits, but to no further extent than any other kid, until grade four. At this point the school was putting on a Christmas production, which included a short skit from each class. When it came time for my class to be cast, I was overjoyed to find that all I had to do was say the word, and I got the lead. Our scene was set on an airplane, with all of the passengers heading home for Christmas; I played the pilot. Equipped with a borrowed hat from my neighbor, a headset from the school, and holding an old steering wheel from my Dad’s first car, I committed to the role 100%. I was quite upset when my teacher taped my lines to the steering wheel, as I had worked hard to memorize them. Nonetheless, she insisted, but I didn’t so much as peak at them during the performance. After the show my parents asked me, "Do you really like acting Phillip?" To which I replied, "No, I hate it!" (I was a very stubborn child).
     My performances hit a lull in middle school, as I suppose I was just ‘too cool for that’. In grade eight however, we all went to see the high school’s musical production of Bye Bye Birdie. I was astounded, as this was the first time that I really enjoyed live theatre. It was high energy and seemed so ‘professional’ to me. When I found out that all I had to do was sign up and I could be in the next year’s show, there was no question about it. My first production with Parkland was Oklahoma!, for which I was a chorus member. One of the older students that I got to know in that production, encouraged me to do a summer musical theatre camp, with Victoria Youth Musical Theatre Society (VYMTS). I signed up, auditioned, and landed the role of Mr. Macafee in Bye Bye Birdie, the very show that had sparked my interest. From that point, I went on to play leading roles in Parkland’s productions of The Music Man, Grease, and The Boyfriend. As well I did a second show with VYMTS, that being 42nd Street. I too became very involved with the acting class at Parkland, and in my grade twelve year I was the assistant instructor.
     After graduating I took a year off school to work full time, and became involved in a community show. I was cast as a lead in the annual Kaleidoscope Theatre / Lawyers on Stage production of The Rocky Horror Show. Not willing to let performing out of my life, I submitted my application to the University of Victoria theatre department. I was accepted and now have a full course load, with a minor in professional writing. In my first couple weeks at UVIC I was cast in a student show, which tied up my evenings. I  keep myself very busy as I have continued to work part-time, and have also been ushering at the UVIC Phoenix theatre.
     This year’s production of Once Upon a Christmas is my fourth such production with SPPC and Alice Valdal. I am pleased at the chance to be exercising another area of the craft, in stage directing this show. I could ask for no better Christmas present, than an opportunity to perform.

 Ed. Note:  Once Upon a Christmas, Sat. Dec. 11, 7:00 pm.  SPPC.  Free admission.  Free refreshments.  Bring your friends.

Cast of Once Upon a Christmas in rehearsal

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