Traditionally, Christmas plays focus on some sort of redemption story, inspired by the magic of the holidays.
The message at Tulsa’s Center Point residential rehabilitation facility is no different, but it does feature an nontraditional mash-up of Reba McEntire, Eminem, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”” and “”Silent Night.””
The women who live at Center Point, near 36th Street North and Lewis Avenue, are struggling with substance abuse, most of them serving the final portion of drug-related sentences for the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
Video clip: Playing for Hope
Their holiday play, for an audience of roommates, staff members and family, focuses on messages of recovery, sobriety and sisterhood. Grandmas and husbands bring presents to place under the home’s Christmas tree.
Many of the women here are mothers, and this may be their first chance since entering prison to spend part of Christmas with their kids. Children are allowed to stay for overnight visits with their mothers at Center Point.
“Believe it or not, I have some actresses here,” program director Regina Price says at the introduction.
A sheet with tinsel stapled to it stands in for the stage curtain. Two women read some history about holiday traditions: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa.
Lacey James takes the stage for a skit about a woman named Fancy who becomes sad because of haunting memories from the past. Hailee Bullock and Debra Hassinger act out scenes from the Reba McEntire hit “Fancy,” while Lacey sings: “Here’s your one chance Fancy, don’t let me down.” In the skit, Fancy realizes she’s depressed about her tough past, so she calls her friends. They come over and cheer her up.
It’s a lesson the women have learned at Center Point: Lean on your friends and loved ones in tough times, not drugs or alcohol.
Another skit about avoiding the usual relapse traps at the holidays ends with the women singing the chorus from rapper Eminem’s hit “Not Afraid,” about his own recovery from drug addiction:
“We’ll walk this road together, through the storm,
Whatever weather, cold or warm
Just let you know that you’re not alone.”
There’s a reading of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” for the children in the audience, and then a little humor from Amy Cassell and Medea Glass: “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” complete with forehead hoofprints and Beyonce dance moves.
Cassell’s mother, Anita Miller, dabs tears at the corner of her eyes while recording it with her iPhone. She’s caring for Cassell’s three daughters while Cassell serves time for felony DUI charges.
Cassell chose to come to Center Point, even though it added time onto her sentence. She wants to get sober, but Miller says she knows the road Cassell faces after her release will be tough.
“Being a single mom, there are so many battles,” Miller says. “When she’s sober, she’s an incredible person.”
They have a moment of silence for addicts and their families who are still suffering. Then they sing “Silent Night,” all three verses.
“Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace.”
The play is over, and Cassell’s three daughters rush to hug her.
Radiantly beaming, with the promise of redeeming grace.