CARBONDALE, Colorado - When SoL Theatre Co. co-directors Logan Carter and Jennifer Michaud were choosing a play for the holidays, Linus from Charlie Brown won them over.
"We watched 'A Charlie Brown Christmas,' and when Linus recites his monologue from the Gospel of Luke, proclaiming 'That's what Christmas is all about,' I teared up," Carter said. "And I felt it would be such a powerful choice to remind our community what Christmas is about, and how often we forget what the focus should be this holiday season."
The theatre company's inaugural Christmas holiday production of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "The Little Star!" features music from the classic Vince Guaraldi Trio album and traditional seasonal favorites.
"We love the simplicity of Charlie Brown's discovery, as he tries to cast his Christmas play," Carter said. "And who doesn't love the classic, jazzy tunes behind our favorite childhood cartoon characters?"
Michaud was also excited to co-direct plays that she has cherished since she was a child.
"'A Charlie Brown Christmas' was such a distinct and wonderful memory for me from the Christmases of my childhood in the '70s," she said. "I was immediately enamored with the idea."
Michaud said the decision to add "The Little Star!" came later, after she and Carter discovered the play was just under 30 minutes long. They chose to add a second act, and the production was born.
"I told Logan about the first play I ever did, when I was 8 years old, at my church back home in Upper Michigan," Michaud said. "I played the title role in 'The Little Star' and was hooked. She insisted we try to find the script. The internet is an amazing place."
The Charlie Brown Christmas theme has remained popular over the decades because the message is so true and simple, Carter said.
"We just often forget, and buy into the commercialism of it all," she said. "But Christmas is celebrating the birth of a savior. Whether you are a Christian or not, this is what Christmas is all about. We welcome any and all faiths and beliefs to sit back, ponder and rediscover the true meaning behind Christmas this season."
Michaud said the response to the production's message has been overwhelming and positive.
"I think that's because above all else, the message of the show, and of the season, is one of hope and love," she said. "That is why we chose the pieces we chose, and that is what we hope the audience takes with them when the lights come up."
The magic of the holidays
Children's theater sets the perfect stage for sharing a holiday message.
"Children are still so willing to believe in the magic of the holidays, and through them we get to believe again, if ever so briefly," she said. "Anything is possible in the eyes of a child, and children's theater lets you see the world through those eyes. It's a gift to get to work with them. It's magic."
Carter said the creative process in working with the child actors in this evolving theatre troupe has been enlightening.
"Honestly, one of the main goals of our creative process is to engage our children in a very positive and uplifting way," she said. "We have what is called a STARF (Supportive, Team player, good Attitude, Responsible, and Focus) of the day award at the end of each rehearsal. The kids really look forward to being rewarded. That way they are learning what it takes to be an example to the rest of the cast."
In directing these initial performances of SoL Theatre Co.'s first year, Carter and Michaud have made lasting memories with the kids.
"It's a labor of love. I've discovered that opening a show must be similar to giving birth," Carter said. "You are exhausted beyond belief, but so in love with what you created. I am so proud of the show, the same way a mom wants to show off her newborn baby to the world."
Michaud said the development of SoL Theatre Co., and the holiday's performances, have ventured well beyond her expectations.
"Every day seems like a bit of a dream. I can't tell you how many times I have turned to Logan and said, 'I can't believe this is my life,'" she said. "I feel so blessed to be a part of something I so deeply believe in - bringing theatre and the lessons it contains to these kids' lives. I am more proud of them than I can possibly express. And I can't believe I get to do it with such an amazing, creative, and loving person like Logan."
In 2013, Carter and Michaud are continuing their dream of providing professional theater for children in the Roaring Fork Valley. Their next production, slated for the spring, is "James and the Giant Peach."