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A musical family affair

by Lenise Willis

Quality family time can be hard to come by in today’s busy world, but Christmastime usually reminds us to stop and enjoy one another’s company. Some may bake cookies or trim the tree, but there are a few dedicated families””like those performing together in Twin City Stage’s Yes, Virginia The Musical””that take the holiday spirit to a new level.

Based on a true story, the charming tale features a young girl who writes to a newspaper editor to ask if Santa Claus exists.

The family-friendly production is already a heart-warming tale for families, but by incorporating real families in the cast and behind the scenes, Twin City Stage adds a new layer of authenticity and true holiday spirit. Eight families within a cast of 40 are working together to bring the production to life.

“This has been the third or fourth show that I’ve had multiple family members in,” said Justin Bulla, director. “Some directors might shy away from that, but I see it as an opportunity for families to experience something together””to have a shared experience with each other that they can talk about for years to come.”

The cast includes Asher and Isabella Ellis, a father-daughter duo who perform as Mr. Church and Virginia; Jed and Karina Macosko, a father-daughter duo who perform as Scraggly Santa and part of the ensemble; Kim Bell and Maurice Graham, a grandmother and grandson who perform together in the ensemble; and twin sons Alex and Asher Dodson, who perform as Ollie and part of the ensemble. Their dad, Dan Dodson, is also the musical director.

“I had my doubts””cause he can be really embarrassing sometimes,” said Karina Macosko, 11, about performing with her dad. “But it’s been really fun, actually.”

Actually, it was her idea for Jed to try out for the play””something she sprung on him on the day of auditions.

“I’m super happy now,” Jed said, “but at the time I didn’t even have a song; I had to borrow a song book from someone.” Like most dads, Jed was pleasantly surprised that Karina wanted to spend the extra quality time with him.

“I literally have like three activities every single day, so if we don’t do something together, it’s like I never get to see him,” Karina said. “I already had in mind that we were both going to try out.”

Asher Ellis and his daughter Isabella, 11, have had a similar experience performing together, and in fact, have done several productions together. Over the years, it has become a shared hobby the two can enjoy together.

“She helps me with my lines (at home, in the car, everywhere),” Asher said. “It gets to the point where your family wants you to quit singing those same two songs over and over again, but hey, I need it; I’m an old man,” he laughed.

“It’s good bonding””getting to do a show together,” Isabella said. They’ve also learned a lot about one another.

“I tell my wife every night when I get home that I’m super impressed with the way she’s able to personify what her character is all about,” he said, “and she cannot only memorize her lines in a week, but bring it to life. There’s a part in the play when the kids are mean to her, and it just brings a tear to my eye.”

In addition to the extra bonding time that performing families get, the production itself also benefits from the close cast. Not only does it help with discipline and a smoother rehearsal process, but it also creates a more comfortable and conducive atmosphere, especially for young actors or first-timers.

“Every play me and him have been in, we’ve been together,” Asher, 8, said about his twin brother, Alex.

“I like (acting together) because at least I know one person in the play,” Asher said. “It’d be harder (without Alex).” “I think I’d mess up my character (without Asher there),” Alex added. They’ve done four productions on stage together, and their mom and dad take turns participating with them.

Maurice Graham, 8, agrees that having his grandmother, Kim Bell, in the production is comforting, and he also likes having her there just to watch him act, sing and dance and video tape his performances.

“What makes Yes, Virginia a great Christmas production is that it truly exudes the Christmas spirit,” Bulla said about his true family production. !

WANNA go?

Twin City Stage performs Macy’s Yes, Virginia The Musical Dec. 18-20 at the Arts Council Theatre, 610 Coliseum Drive, Winston-Salem. Tickets are $15. Carolers will perform before Friday’s show from 6:15-6:45 p.m. For tickets and more information visit twincitystage.org or call 748-0857.

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