Krystal Blatcher understands Gertrude Eldridge, the character she plays in UpStage Theatre’s production of Ava Brewster Turner’s drama, “Home for Christmas,” which opens Saturday, Dec. 6.
The show features the Clayton family, who is brought together by Mother Clayton’s sickness. Daughter Nancy Clayton arranges this holiday gathering by casting everyone in a family holiday show, including her snobby New York sister, Gertrude.
A sister the audience soon learns isn’t snobby at all.
“Everyone thinks she moved to New York to get away from her family in Tennessee,” Blatcher says. “But she really moved away because of her father’s death. She had so many good memories of the holidays, and she couldn’t bear those memories after her father died. She had to get away from them.”
Blatcher stops to wipe away a tear. Though Blatcher’s not moving away from her family, she understands Gertrude’s plight. Blatcher’s father, Bertrand Blatcher, died three weeks ago. He was ill, but he encouraged his daughter to continue with the play.
“When I came back to rehearsals after he died, it was so difficult to say Gertrude’s lines about losing her father,” Blatcher says. “It’s still hard. I get emotional, but I won’t stop. My father wanted me to do this, and I’m dedicating this play to him.”
Blatcher’s family will be attending UpStage’s matinee performance on Sunday. Family members have seen her perform this part before — she played Gertrude in the 2012 production.
“She’s the only returning cast member from that show,” Turner says. “It’s interesting, because new cast members bring their own perspectives to the characters, so though the story is the same, those who saw the show in 2012 will be seeing a different show in 2014.”
“My character is the same, but she’s different when I’m surrounded by new cast members,” she says. “And my family on stage has been so supportive of me, because this time my emotions and Gertrude’s emotions are the same.”
“This story has touched Krystal, but it’s also a story that touches the community, because we’ve all grown up doing Christmas productions at church,” Turner says. “All of our plays relates to the community in some way through laughter or issues like grandparents raising grandchildren or even dealing with violence.”
As UpStage closes out its 10th season, Turner is already looking at the 2015 lineup, which will opens with Pearl Clearage’s “The Nacirema Socity Requests the Honor of Your Presence of Their First One-Hundred Years.” The title is long, true, but not too lengthy to fit on the Lincoln Theatre’s marquee.
“We’ve been asked to open the Lincoln Theatre with this play,” Turner says. “We’re so excited — this is big for us, the small theater with a big heart.”
But that will be in February. The Clayton siblings take priority in December as they return home for the holidays.
- CAST: Kyesolyn Byrd, Nancy Clayton; Stanley White Jr., Jim Clayton; Krystal Blatcher, Gertrude Eldridge; Crystal Jefferson, Mother Clayton; Alexander Scott, Uncle Leroy; Keyaira Augustus, Barbara Jean Winters’ Armond Rounds, Anthony Jackson; Milton Smith, Allen Foster; Chelsea Young, Miriam Eldridge; Terina Stripling, Mrs. Parker.
- ARTISTIC STAFF: Ava Brewster Turner, director; Rachael Price, stage manager; Barbara Oliver, costumes; Maddgame Entertainment, publicity.