An original production that showcases the creativity of students in Kinston High School’s Theater Department also probes the connection between teenagers’ problems at home and disruptive behavior at school.
“Christmas Without You,” a drama highlighted by songs and dance and decorated with technical flourishes, is the work of Elizabeth A. Payne, theater arts instructor at KHS, and loosely follows the plotline of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which introduced the world to Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of past, present and future.
Payne’s play, however, is a “modern urban high school version” of the classic. There’s a ghostly guide, but the Scrooge character is “a high school teenager who’s hanging around the wrong crowd and no one understands why.”
Payne began writing the story months ago while teaching at an Edgecombe County high school, drawn to the often hidden issues that affect student behavior. “It centered a lot on my students,” she said. “Some of them were homeless and many of them were acting out at school.”
When she came to Kinston High in October, she found students with “similar issues,” she said. “A lot of them could identify with coming from broken homes.”
More importantly, though, she found collaborators in her theater arts students – students who helped write scenes, polish the songs and devise the choreography. In all, about 20 students are involved in the production – most from her three theater classes but some who came to the production through open auditions.
“Christmas Without You” will debut on Saturday, Jan. 13, with two shows – a 2 p.m. matinee and a 7 p.m. evening performance – at the Kinston-Lenoir County Performing Arts Center on the campus of the high school.
Because it touches on issues of homelessness and displacement, Payne and her cast have created an incentive for show-goers to donate hygiene items to the local homeless shelter. Tickets for the musical are $5 in advance at $7 at the door, but patrons donating travel-size hygiene items will be rewarded with a discounted ticket price.
Tickets can be purchased from cast members or from Payne.
“It’s a play for parents, students and teachers,” Payne said. “A lot of times there’s a disconnect between students and people at school. We’re only going to be able to serve students when there is communication between all three groups.”