Father and daughter, Chris and Kathleen Skilton, are performing for their first time on stage in the St. Andrew’s Players production of It’s a Wonderful Life beginning Dec. 8. Mark Brett/Western News

Christmas classic comes to ‘life’ on stage at Okanagan church

A father and daughter have been cast in their first play at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church

A Penticton father and daughter are teaming up for their first foray into the world of theatre in the St. Andrew’s Players production of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Chris Skilton, 61, will be playing the part of Uncle Billy Bailey, an ever-forgetful but loveable character, while 21-year-old Kathleen’s role is that of the sultry Violet Bick.

There are seven scheduled performances at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, four 2:30 p.m. matinee shows, Dec. 8, 9, 15 and 16 and three 7:30 p.m. shows Dec. 10, 13, 14.

“I enjoy going to the theatre and Colin (play producer and St. Andrew’s Paster, Colin Cross) is always looking for people so I thought, ‘well why not,’ so I put my name up and he came and asked me, saying: ‘it’s a small part, mind you,’ and I ended up with Uncle Billy which was a little more than I expected,” said Chris about how he ended up with the role.

“At least it’s somewhat of a comedic part so it allows me a little bit of leeway there. It is quite a challenge and it feels good to do even though it’s a little scary, to be honest.”

Related: A Christmas Carol comes to life in Penticton

Uncle Billy is the catalyst to main character George Bailey’s (Alyosha Pushak) eventual realization of how wonderful life is after he gets a chance to see how the town of Bedford Falls and its residents would have turned out if he had never been born.

“I think I was a little like Uncle Billy until I was about 40, then I smartened up. He’s quite forgetful, our Billy is, and now I’m 61 so I’m starting to forget a few things. I guess I’ll forgive him for that,” said Chris, with a laugh about any similarities between him and his character.

“I’ve found that the hardest part is probably acting when you don’t have lines. You’re standing on stage there and if you don’t have a line, you’ve still got to be engaged and doing something. I find that quite hard.

“You’ve got to kind of let yourself go. Acting emotions is difficult for me because I’m, well, closed I guess, like a lot of guys. I have to cry for probably 30 seconds, that’s quite tough.”

About performing with his daughter he said: “It’s been fantastic, I’m so proud to see her doing something positive, and it’s good to work as a team rather than on your own all the time. Very happy to be working together.”

Kathleen agreed: “It’s a good bonding experience, I guess. We’ve never really done anything like this before, so it’s kind of interesting to try it out, something new. I think it will be enjoyable.”

Cross believes it is important to give new people a chance to try their hand at acting.

“That’s what happened to me. I was involved in a Bare Bones show with Tom Cowles. I’d never acted before so I had a smaller role in one of his plays and it was really fun,” said Cross.

“So this is just giving them a chance to do it for the first time and I think that’s an important educational component of community theatre.

“Both of them are doing really well and maybe once they get one show under their belt, maybe they will keep going.”

Because the film is in the public domain, Cross decided rather than pay royalties for other people’s stage adaptions, he would format the play himself.

Related: St. Andrew’s returns to Narnia

“The original film is a good two hours so it’s a matter of tearing it down and making it doable,” he said.

“It really is a marvellous show and it really works well on the stage.”

The play has a cast of about 14.

Tickets are $20 and free for children under 12. They are available at the Dragon’s Den at 12 Front St. and at the door 387 Martin St.


 

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