DOVER — At the Cornerstone Church in Dover, each Christmas means staging a new original production.
This year’s play, entitled “A Little of That From Me,” is a musical co-written and co-directed by Everett De Morier and Dave Aubrey. It’s the tale of a dying man, portrayed by Mr. De Morier, who gathers his estranged family to celebrate his last Christmas together in their hometown of Dover.
“The play started out with a female lead this summer but we ended up scrapping the idea and starting over from scratch,” Mr. De Morier said. “We really built the script around a single scene and we’re both excited about what we’ve created.”
Casting was done in late August and rehearsals began for the 15 speaking roles. There are an additional 30 singing parts. Including the crew, the production takes nearly 75 people to pull it off.
“There’s always the problem of all the teenage girls wanting to get involved which is fine but we do need people of all ages to be in the play so sometimes it takes a little more to get the adults, especially the men involved,” Mr. De Morier said.
This was the case for Vic Jeffries of Camden.
“My daughter was actually a part of the first production and she had a lot of fun and it was a great show so I decided to do it the next year and now it’s something I look forward to,” he said.
Although Mr. Jeffries considers himself more of a singer than an actor, he’s enjoyed getting out of his comfort zone by trying something new.
“I’m in the choir and like getting involved in different things going on at the church so it wasn’t a big deal to get on stage and I’m glad I did because it’s my sixth year in the annual Christmas play,” he said.
Not everyone had such an easy time their first time on stage though. Mr. De Morier’s son, Nick, has been in all seven plays and had a rough time at the beginning.
“When I first started, I had terrible stage fright but was an extra the first year so I didn’t have to worry about remembering any lines,” he said. “But now that I’m doing it for the seventh year the nerves are gone and I feel like I could do anything out there.”
And this year he is. He has three roles in the performance, most notably Marty, the doctor who breaks the news to Walt that this Christmas will be his last.
Other actors are a little newer to performing like Caroline Richard, a senior at Polytech High School.
“I’ve been in four other Christmas plays but this is my first one with a speaking role,” she said. “I’m excited because everyone always loves the Christmas plays because everyone relates to them in one way or another.”
For many attendees of Cornerstone, participation in the annual play has become part of their holiday tradition.
“It’s a pretty special thing to be a part of,” Nick De Morier said. “Most of us don’t do anything like this throughout the year so everyone is always very committed and makes time in their busy schedule to get to rehearsal and you end up gaining new friends each year.”
Although everyone involved in the play is looking forward to the performances this weekend, they’re dreading Monday.
“The week leading up to the play is always really exciting, not just for us that are in it, but everyone else too who are looking forward to seeing it,” Caroline said.
“But when Monday comes, it’s kind of depressing. We’ve been busy practicing three days a week –– pouring all this time into something you love then it’s just done until the next year.”
This year’s production is the sixth play the church has done over the past seven years. Cornerstone repeated the first play to iron out the kinks and get used to the idea of doing an annual production.
“The first year was a little rough,” Mr. De Morier said. “We had to build a stage and we just had to kind of wing it with the sets, but everything has gotten a lot more refined since.
Every year, the sets for the Christmas play are thoughtfully planned out in advance and made from scratch mostly by Eddy Seger, designer of the state quarter and a former Caesar Rodney High art and drama teacher. This year’s play has three different sets and a side set.
“I actually got to know him through one of our actors the first year who was a student of his,” Mr. De Morier said.
To make transitions between scenes easy, the background was painted on a series of triangular panels that are turned during scene changes.
And the Dover locations painted on the set are unmistakable, especially a scene taking place on Loockerman Street. Every detail of a block of the street is depicted down to the last detail like the “1952” etching on the side of Citizens Bank.
“It’s a great thing to be a part of because the plays aren’t just fun, they always have a meaningful message,” Mr. Jeffries said.
“There are a few scenes this year that really get you thinking about what’s actually important.”
Show times are 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free with doors opening an hour before each show.
The church is at 761 S. Little Creek Road.