Audiences can always count on Mr. Sasse’s dramas to be entertaining, moving, and transcending different generations and cultures. This year’s “Tales of Wonder,” performed by the RLT players at Penang PAC from December 3-5th, was no exception.
The night kicked off with Thizbe Balzer (12) leading the RLT dancers in a festive Christmas dance to an upbeat remix of “The First Noel.” After that, the series of impactful performances began. The wide array of themes ranged from capitalism to a redneck Santa Claus. The untraditional themes forced audience members to question the true meaning of Christmas from many different viewpoints. "I really enjoyed RLT this year because of the Christmas themed show. It was a wonderful way to combine the hilarious and poignant aspects of Christmas traditions and bring the audience to both chuckling laughter and meaningful tears," Hannah Graves (12) shared.
It was refreshing to see some newcomers join the RLT players this year. Sara Stoltzfus (9) and Seth Kelley (9) had their RLT acting debut, joining Ysabel Loh (12) and Aaron Chand (11) in a clever skit depicting the rivalry in a boys vs. girls snowball fight. After a few more light-hearted plays to get people into the Christmas spirit, the mood changed in a moving drama entitled “Christmas in the Trenches, 1914.” The mini-drama was based off of the true story in WW1 when soldiers from opposing sides laid down their guns and celebrated Christmas together. The skit depicted three British soldiers deep in the trenches on Christmas Eve. Seth Kelley (9) seemed to be the youngest of the bunch and was reminiscing aloud about all his Christmas Eve memories. Joel Frohlich (11), an older, more realistic soldier snapped at him to be quiet as it wasn’t realistic or helpful to be thinking of such happy times when they were at war. Aaron Chand (11) comes over in time to hear the other side propose a Christmas truce. Skeptical at first, the three soldiers lay down their guns and walk forward. A soccer ball is playfully kicked toward them, symbolizing that the war was on a standstill. Aaron Chand (11) reflected on his role in the skit by saying, "I think the most moving moment in RLT for me personally was putting myself in the shoes of those soldiers in WWI. It gives me an immense appreciation for what our soldiers do for us and how they sometimes aren't able to go home for Christmas holidays."
Kimberly Horton (11) also gave a moving performance, acting as a lonely grandmother whose children and grandchildren decided not to visit her for Christmas. Her sad tears jolted the hearts of everyone in the room, reminding everybody to let their family how much they love and value them.
The mood didn’t stay down for too long, though. Joel Halbeldl (12) brought the audience back to uncontrollable fits of laughter in the stand out skit entitled “Jolly Old St. Hick.” Joel sported a man bun and his long anticipated Santa beard as he played the role of a flamboyant redneck helping out two uptight city folks. The couple, Hannah Graves (12) and Aaron Chand (11), were quick to judge this unfamiliar hillbilly, but that didn’t stop him from showing them kindness and hospitality. As the story came to an end, it was revealed that the hospitable redneck was Santa Claus all along.
Another audience favorite was “The Spies & Mrs. Claus” where Lexi Zimbulis (12) and Aaron Chand (11) stole the show, acting as hysterical elves spying for Santa to find out what Mrs. Claus (Kimberly Horton) got him for Christmas. Audience members were trying to catch their breath while laughing hysterically at Lexi’s convincing and dedicated portrayal of one of Santa’s elves.
The night was eventually brought to an end with the closing musical, “The Last Shepherd.” Joel Frohlich (11) played the role of the last Shepherd, while Ysabel Loh (12) acted as an outcast woman looking for mercy and hope. Ysabel’s portrayal of the outcast woman was both convincing and heart-rending. The story brought everyone back to the true meaning of Christmas and reminded them not to be so quick to judge and condemn. Jesus wasn’t about condemnation, rather he was about love—unconditional love. Christmas is a fun time filled with food, presents, and decorations; but more importantly, it is a time to remember and honor the birth of Jesus. It is a time to show family and friends how much they are loved and valued. The RLT performances taught viewers to treat strangers and people who are different from them with as much love and dignity as they would anyone else. Audience members left the theater that night impacted with a new and different perspective on Christmas.