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Holiday dinner theater benefits autism

By L.A. Story

WALNUT — Food, laughter, a Christmas-themed show and aiding a good cause can all be done in one place.

The Community Christmas dinner theater will present "Twas the Opening Night Before Christmas," at Jesus Name Community Church, 61 CR 770, in Walnut, on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 7 and 8. Doors Open and Pre-Show will begin at 6:30 p.m., Dinner is served at 7 p.m. and the Main Show is at 8 p.m.

"Twas the Opening Night Before Christmas" is an absurd one-act show full of humor and lessons about what happens when people forget the true reason for the season, and it is preceded by an all-one-can-eat Christmas feast. A portion of the proceeds for the dinner/show will benefit Reconnect 4 Autism.

According to information provided by Jeremy Edwards, A Community Christmas is a dinner theater started by Jesus Name Community Church in 2010 that offers the best in country cooking, amazing talent and lots of laughter.

"Be sure to come hungry because our servers will be piling your plate with all you can eat country food, featuring turkey and dressing and all the trimmings. It is a time for people in the community to come together and enjoy the holiday season while also helping to support a great cause," said Edwards.

The 2018 cast has great things to say about this year's production.

"This is my ninth year to be a member of the A Community Christmas cast," said James Crocker. "This year's play is going to be a lot of fun. We have a good script and a talented group of actors."

A synopsis of the play, by Flip Kobler and Cindy Marcus, states, "It's Christmas Eve at the church and the pageant must go on in one hour. Even as parishioners are lining up at the door, the players aren't prepared, the producer's big plans are over budget, the directors are engaged in a power struggle, the chorus keeps clucking away, and all the while the pastor's hopes to raise funds to help the homeless hang on a wing and a prayer.

"At a time when holiday spirits are meant to shine like the star of Bethlehem, the pageant cast and crew are showing as much kindness and composure as the angry, off-stage donkey being provoked by an incompetent — and overpaid — wannabe animal handler. Will the show fly in time? Or will it be left grounded like the wingless angel who wants only to reach for the stars?"

Cast member Kenny Chessor said, "'Twas the Opening Night Before Christmas' promises to deliver the laughs, cheer and heart-warming story telling you've come to expect from a Community Christmas play. This year, we pull back the curtain to reveal the drama and hilarity that can ensue as church members scramble in preparation moments before opening of their own Christmas production. It's a play within a play and we think you're going to love it."

"More cast, more personalities and more laughs," said Marissa Kilough, cast member. "This year is going to be our funniest play, yet. It just gets bigger and better every year."

Reconnect 4 Autism was designed by professionals to provide outreach to families on the autism spectrum. Their stated goal is to facilitate events and training designed with the entire family in mind. Their hope is to help these families step out of the shadows and into the local community without fear of failure or intimidation. They want to Reconnect these families to the world and the amazing possibilities it holds for them.

(Single tickets for "Twas the Opening Night Before Christmas" are $18 for adults, $10 for children (5-10 years), $5 children (4 and below) and $15 each for groups of 15 or more. Tickets can be purchased online at christmas.jncconline.com; by phone at 870-634-6317 or 662-507-1389 or in person at Jesus Name Community Church, in Walnut.)