‘Christmas Carol’ educates, inspires local students

Published 12:03 am Thursday, December 17, 2015

NATCHEZ — The 12th annual production of “A Natchez Christmas Carol” is in full swing at the Natchez Little Theatre, and cast members are learning much and having fun.

“A Natchez Christmas Carol” is an adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic novel set in Reconstruction-era Natchez.

NLT Executive Director Layne Taylor wrote the script for the production 12 years ago. Taylor said education and inspiring Natchez youth are major goals of the annual event.

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“I just want young people to dream big,” Taylor said. “We’re a small town, and theater does teach ambition.”

Taylor has taught theater at Copiah-Lincoln Community College for eight years. As part of his theater class, he requires students to come to watch a production at the Natchez Little Theatre and gives extra points to students who audition or are cast in productions.

Tim Leakes, a recent graduate of Co-Lin, is one such student. Leakes took Taylor’s class last semester, and now plays Fred, the nephew of the main character in “A Natchez Christmas Carol.”

Leakes said he had always been interested in theater, but never auditioned for a role until he took Taylor’s class.

He hadn’t intended on even taking the course.

“Honestly, I needed the credit and music appreciation was already full,” Leakes said.

The class led to a new hobby, however, that Leakes said he plans to continue. He will portray Huckleberry Finn in the Natchez Little Theatre’s next production “Big River.”

“I like the fact that nobody can talk over me,” Leakes said of his new theatrical interest. “It’s my time, and people are there to pay attention to me.”

Co-Lin freshman Sara Davis, who is majoring in biology, plays Mrs. Cratchit in the production.

Davis said she got involved in theater as a student at Natchez High School through the workshops offered at the Natchez Little Theatre, and has been involved ever since.

“Doing things on stage gives me a chance to not be myself, to be someone else for a while,” Davis said. “And to do something you don’t always do.”

Davis hopes to pass on her theatrical interest to her little sister, Ava Pinder, who is on stage for the first time in the production playing Mary Cratchit.

“I’m going to bring her to the winter workshop and the summer youth workshop,” Davis said. “Having her on stage, she’s starting to open up a little more.”

For Taylor, that is exactly the point. He said theater teaches self-confidence and teamwork to everyone, not just young students.

“Theater teaches exactly the same thing as team sports,” Taylor said. “Everyone on that stage is dependent on everyone else on that stage. They see the commonalities they share, which vastly outnumber the differences.”

NLT will perform “A Natchez Christmas Carol” at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2 p.m. Sunday.