A Christ­mas Story at Home Made The­atre

The Record (Troy, NY) - - ENTERTAINMENT - By Bob Goepfert

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> It’s al­most a rit­ual that when dur­ing an in­ter­view per­form­ers and di­rec­tors claim that the show they are work­ing on has long been a fa­vorite on their wish list. Some­times it’s true. - as in the case of J. J. Buech­ner, who, when he says it, you be­lieve it.

For- in­stance is – J. J. Buech­ner, who is di­rect­ing “A Christ­mas Story” at Home Made The­ater in Saratoga Springs. It runs week­ends through Dec. 16 and is likely that the show adapted from the in­cred­i­bly pop­u­lar film will be a ma­jor draw for Home Made The­ater.

When Buech­ner claims “A Christ­mas Story” is one of his fa­vorite Christ­mas plays, you be­lieve him. After all di­rect­ing this at Home Made The­ater is like mak­ing a ma­jor do­na­tion to a ri­val. You see, Buech­ner runs his own the­ater com­pany, The Lo­cal Ac­tors Guild, which also presents the­ater in Saratoga Springs.

What the­ater com­pany wouldn’t want a po­ten­tial mega-hit on their sched­ule? Yet, here is Buech­ner work­ing for his ri­val. He laughs when the dilemma is brought up. He agrees that all things be­ing equal, he would love to of­fer the show at his own the­ater. But, he quickly points out that his pre­sent­ing space, the Dee Sarno The­ater in the Arts Cen­ter on Broad­way, would not ac­com­mo­date the tech­ni­cal de­mands of the pro­duc­tion. “It re­quires a twotier set and we could never do that,” he says.

He also de­bunks the idea that Lo­cal Ac­tors Guild and Home Made The­ater is in com­pe­ti­tion. It is his the­ory that sev­eral pro­duc­ing the­aters in a com­mu­nity is healthy for all,’ as they help de­velop au­di­ences for each other. As if to prove his the­ory, he points out that sev­eral years ago he di­rected “A Christ­mas Story” for the nearby Schuylerville Com­mu­nity The­ater.

What did he learn from that ef­fort? “How much I love the play,” he says. “It’s one of those rare works that has ap­peal to adults as well as chil­dren. There is some- thing about the hon­esty of the fam­ily dy­nam­ics that every­one can re­late to. It’s funny and has a big heart. It’s fun to ex­pe­ri­ence, as an ac­tor, a di­rec­tor and es­pe­cially as an au­di­ence mem­ber.”

He says, sound­ing al­most happy, that he has upped the level of dif­fi­culty with the show at Home Made. Buech­ner ex­plains that the au­di­tion process was over­whelm­ing. “We had so many tal­ented kids come out we de­cided to cast every­one,” he says.

It was a gen­er­ous ges­ture. How­ever, it breeds con­cerns be­cause many young­sters are par­tic­i­pat­ing in their first stage show. He quickly points out that the ac­tors that play the ma­jor chil­dren’s role have some ex­pe­ri­ence. He is also adamant as he sup­ports the ta­lent of all in the cast.

He says his only con­cern about the in­ex­pe­ri­ence of the cast is how a novice might han­dle some er­ror that might hap­pen on stage. Buech­ner ex­plains that a vet­eran per­former has learned that the way to han­dle a flub or a dropped line is to con­tinue speak­ing. “How do you teach keep go­ing?” he asks.

Work­ing with ap­prox­i­mately two dozen chil­dren is a chal­lenge, but he in­sists it is one he en­joys. What makes it spe­cial is the ca­ma­raderie among the cast.

“Every­one re­ally gets along and is sup­port­ive of each other.” You could also sense the re­lief in his voice when he adds, “No stage Moms, ei­ther.”

Of­fer­ing a chuckle, he con­tin­ues, “All the par­ents have been beyond ter­rific in ac­com­mo­dat­ing re­hearsal sched­ules and be­ing sup­port­ive in gen­eral.” More to the point, his ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that a cast who is happy and co­op­er­a­tive of­ten pro­duces the best work on stage.

Most im­por­tantly, with a lot of care, none of the kids will shoot their eyes out with a Red Ry­der air gun.

“A Christ­mas Story” at Home Made The­ater, week­ends De­cem­ber 7-16, at The Lit­tle The­atre on the grounds of SPAC. 518587- 4427. home­made­the-


Ral­phie, a char­ac­ter in “A Christ­mas Story,” wears a pink bunny suit.

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