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Arviat drama club keeps holiday spirit alive

The John Arnalukjuak Drama Club put on a sterling rendition of Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus in Arviat this past week.

Director Gord Billard said he decided to go with the classic tale, despite having his doubts after reading the script for the first time.

Noah Muckpah gets the royal treatment backstage as hairstylist Mallory Okatsiak tends to his eyebrows and makeup artist Crystal Kalluak applies his foundation during the John Arnalukjuak Drama Club's production of Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus in Arviat on Dec. 12 and 13. photo courtesy of Gord Billard

He said the lack of action in the story had him wondering how it would go over with Arviat audiences.

“It's a dialogue- and plot-driven play for sure, but I brought it to the kids to read and they really liked it and thought it would be a good story to do,” said Billard.

“The letter at the end is a bit challenging in terms of its vocabulary, but I think people got the message that it's the spirit of Santa Claus we're talking about here, not the fictional person type of thing.

“It's within the heart of childhood that the spirit of Santa is sound.”

The club delivered four performances with a cast of 14 and a solid stage crew of about the same number, doing two for the schools and two for the general public.

The first public performance drew about 160 paying customers, while the second show jumped to about 200.

Billard said the two public shows were, in his opinion, nothing short of fabulous.

He said they went over really well with the audiences, especially during the evening performances for the public.

“The audiences were quite attentive and really appreciative in their response, applauding after all 11 scenes in the play and giving the cast sustained applause during the curtain call,” he said.

“The kids were amazing and our mayor, Bob Leonard, who comes to all of our shows, shook his head at the end and told me he couldn't believe how far they came, especially in the way they handled the vocabulary in the play.”

This year marks the 120th anniversary of the year (1897) Virginia's letter was written to the editor of The New York Sun, which Billard and the cast members made a point of mentioning during their performances.

Billard said Grade 6 student Mary-Beth Uluadluak, who played Virginia's best friend Mary Lou Parker, was the youngest performer in the play and put on a wonderful performance.

Billard said Uluadluak had a lot of lines, came to every rehearsal, and was fully prepared come show time.

She's a smart little girl and she did a great job in the role of Mary Lou,” he said.

I told both evening audiences that Mary-Beth represents the future of theatre and drama in town, and I sincerely hope she comes back and keeps up the wonderful work she's been doing.

Cheryl Nibgoarsi (Virginia), who played Juliet in our previous play, and Noah Muckpah, who played the young editor Francis P. Church, were both wonderful and really carried the show to its success.”

With the Christmas show behind them, the drama club looks to do one more before the end of the school year.

Billard said he's tackled an Easter play a few times in previous years, but a hectic schedule means there will probably be just one more production from the drama club in 2018.

I'm not sure, just yet, what exactly we'll do, but we'll get through the holidays first, relax a bit, and then I'll turn my attention to it,” he said.

I told everyone who performed in Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, they did a great job as a cast together and I'm hoping hard that I'll see them all back again after the Christmas holidays.”