Cornerstone’s ‘Welcome to Castlewood’ explores true meaning of Christmas

A barber, played by Everette de Morier, left, attends to Augie Bishop, played by Vic Jeffries, in the Cornerstone Church’s production of “Welcome to Castlewood.” Mr. de Morier co-wrote the musical, which starts Dec. 9 at the Dover church. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A barber, played by Everette de Morier, left, attends to Augie Bishop, played by Vic Jeffries, in the Cornerstone Church’s production of “Welcome to Castlewood.” Mr. de Morier co-wrote the musical, which starts Dec. 9 at the Dover church. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — For its eighth annual Christmas show, Cornerstone Church is presenting the original musical “Welcome to Castlewood.”

The production, written by David Aubrey and Everett de Morier, started with a discussion early in the year, like it has since the two first worked together in 2009.

“I think every year we have a fear that we will exhaust every possible scenario because we want to have something different — a new perspective every year,” Mr. de Morier said.

The two started with a simple scene in a barber shop and three main characters.

“I think we just started to know these characters and added some unique ideas and imagery and from there, we’ve let this little idea really become a creation of our own and now we get to see it come to life,” Mr. Aubrey said.

“Welcome to Castlewood” is set in 1937 and follows the stories of three very different people — an outcast, a stranger and an orphan. The three are all looking for joy, but looking in all the wrong places.

“It’s a story that unites people,” Mr. Aubrey said. “You have these characters all doing separate things, looking for joy, but there comes crisis that can change everything and the characters begin to see things in a whole new perspective.”

For almost everyone in the play, acting is like Christmas — it happens but once a year.

Caroline Richards as Louise, left, and Jen Chagaris as Nellie Mayer

Caroline Richards as Louise, left, and Jen Chagaris as Nellie Mayer

Vic Jeffries and Lonna Baldinger are playing husband and wife for the second time in the annual Cornerstone production and started out in the choir.

“We’ve been in the choir for a long time and this is both of our seventh or eighth years in the Christmas play,” Mr. Jeffries said. “It’s the first time I’ve had more than a few lines and it’s going to be really fun.”

Since both only perform in the Christmas productions, their families and friends have made it a point to come out and support them every year.

“My coworkers come out and even though I don’t really act often, I don’t think they’ll be surprised what I do on stage because I’m a real jokester at work,” Mr. Jeffries said.

Ms. Baldinger said her bosses and their families come out every year to see her and that like the actors, they fall in love with each year’s performance.

“It’s one of those things where we never think this year can be better than (the) last,” she said. “But somehow it always is.”

But the actors usually don’t even know the premise of the play until after all the roles have been cast.

“It’s a big deal and they keep the story under wraps,” Kierstin Melnick said. “I think it makes it more fun because once you get the script, you can read the story and dive into it and take on this totally original character you didn’t know outside the story.”

Kierstin is 19 and has been in each year’s Christmas production. Since she started as an 11-year-old, she has taken full advantage of her experience at Cornerstone.

“The first couple plays I did here at church, I really loved them,” she said. “So I got into theater in school and did shows all the way through high school.”

Senior pastor at Cornerstone, Jeff Osgood, loves seeing the stories Mr. Aubrey and Mr. de Morier are able to develop that all tell the true meaning of Christmas.

“I think everyone walks around and sees the lights and decorations but people forget the real meaning of Christmas,” he said. “I think people want to hear a retelling of the story of Christmas and the birth of Christ and the annual plays are a good way to tell the Gospel in a dramatic, unexpected way.”

Mark Boller, left, plays Mr. Burke and Nick de Morier is Otto Kramer in “Welcome to Castlewood.” It is the eighth year that Cornerstone has presented an original musical.

Mark Boller, left, plays Mr. Burke and Nick de Morier is Otto Kramer in “Welcome to Castlewood.” It is the eighth year that Cornerstone has presented an original musical.

Even though the performance always brings home the meaning of Christmas, it’s hard to let go of the story once the curtain goes down for the final time.

“For other types of art, the end is just the beginning. It’s when people can finally watch it or read it or view it. But for a play, the end is really the end,” Mr. de Morier said. “There was a time when it felt so real and everyone was so immersed in it but then you take the costumes off and put the props always and it’s finished.”

But finishing the Cornerstone Christmas show isn’t a bad thing because everyone has the opportunity to see what next year has to offer. Mr. Aubrey will take the lead next year as Mr. de Morier is stepping down to spend more time with his family.

“I’ve been in five (plays) and co-directed seven and it’s a lot of work,” Mr. Aubrey said. “This year alone, we have more than 70 people participating in the show in one way or another. So it’s a lot to manage, but we all still look forward to it, even though it’s hard work.”

“Welcome to Castlewood” will be performed at Cornerstone Church at 761 S. Little Creek Road in Dover. Show times are 7 p.m. Dec. 9, 10 and 11 with an additional 2 p.m. show on Dec. 11.

More information is available online at cornerstonedover.org or by calling 678-3130.

Ashton Brown is a freelance writer living in Dover.

From left, Cassie Hilliard, Kierstin Melnick and Shelly Hicks play operators in “Welcome to Castlewood” at Cornerstone Church.

From left, Cassie Hilliard, Kierstin Melnick and Shelly Hicks play operators in “Welcome to Castlewood” at Cornerstone Church.

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