For most children, Christmas is a time of excitement — and a lot of wondering, “what is Santa going to bring me this year?”
That’s according to Abbi Turk, a child herself who is playing Laura Ingalls in Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s production of “A Little House Christmas.” Abbi said being in the production has changed her thinking about the holiday.
“From a kid’s perspective, they think more about the presents and what they’re going to get,” Abbi said. “I feel like now, looking at this (show), you know why Christmas is a thing.”
That’s the premise of the show, which opens at 7:30 p.m. Friday and has five productions running through Sunday, Dec. 16, at the Oxford, 1814 Oxford Ave.
The Ingalls family — Laura, Mary, Ma and Pa — are getting set for a celebration when a natural disaster strikes, seemingly stopping Santa Claus from coming. But as the storm rages on, a Christmas miracle emerges that helps the family discover the true meaning of Christmas.
Abbi said reading the books made her feel grateful for what she has. Playing Laura has amplified those feelings, especially around the holiday season.
She said she can see the difference in spending Christmas with family on the frontier compared to how families celebrate now.
“I feel like you got to know each other more (then),” Abbi said. “With us, we just go somewhere and everybody does their own thing it seems like. Whereas here, everybody is communicating and just being together.”
Actor Kevin Grady, who plays Pa, said the “true meaning” of Christmas is the core message of the show — and now serves as a reminder for people to come together and appreciate the little things. He thinks audiences will find the contrast to then and now as a connecting point.
“It doesn’t matter how it looks or how you’re celebrating, what matters is about celebrating with family,” Grady said. “Christmas is about kindness, sharing and helping others. They had that back then, and we have that now.”
It just might look a little different. For example, back then it meant crossing a stream to get into town and buy gifts, Grady said. The forms of entertainment — steel marbles and a checkerboard — also have changed.
Heather Davis, who plays Ma and is a “huge fan” of the Laura Ingalls Wilder story, books and television series, said stepping back in time and portraying the lifestyle back then is her favorite part of being in the show.
Davis watched the “Little House on the Prairie” TV series every day after school when she was in elementary school. She has read the books and even taken a Laura Ingalls Wilder tour to Walnut Grove, Minn., and Pepin, where a reconstruction of the family’s cabin is located.
She said “A Little House Christmas” is an accurate portrayal of the books, but the theatrical version is a mix of three different stories.
Many of the cast members are bringing ideas from the show into their own lives as well.
Allison Claesges, who plays Mary Ingalls, said it was eye-opening to see her character’s response to gifts that seem more practical than enjoyable. For example, a coat and muffs.
“If I just got a coat, I would be like ‘OK ...,’ ” Allison said. “But I thought it was inspiring to see they’re grateful for simple things. So I’m definitely going to keep an open mind.”
Grady added the show has served as a reminder in his own life to be grateful for time with his family.
“My sisters, mom and dad are all home in Iowa, so it makes me appreciate that family time a little more,” he said. “You don’t always get it, and there are only so many Christmases you get.”
If You Go
What: Eau Claire Children’s Theatre’s “A Little House Christmas.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Dec. 7 and 14; 1:30 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 8 and 15; and 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16.
Where: The Oxford, 1814 Oxford Ave.
Tickets: $16 adults, $10 students and youth.
Information: 715-839-8877 or ecct.org.