Christmas show director upset over Saenger Theater policy

By Trang Pham-Bui – bio | email

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) – "A Christmas Carol" has been thrilling South Mississippi audiences for more than two decades.  But this year, the holiday tradition is coming to an end at the Saenger Theater in Biloxi.

"This is my heart and soul, yeah," said Donna Burke. "We've done it for, what, 25 years now. It's kind of time to move on.  Dance has changed."

Burke is the show director and she owns Donna's Visual and Performing Arts in Ocean Springs.  Burke said she normally gets to rent the Saenger for an entire week, so her cast and crew can have time to prepare and put on their two-day performance.  But this year, the city of Biloxi only gave her three days, which only gives her one day to set up and rehearse.

"It was very hard.  Loading in, rehearsing, doing a technical rehearsal, staging, and dress rehearsal all in one day.  It's hard on my crew.  We get tired," said Burke.

"December is very busy with Christmas shows and then starting in May, June, and July is when you have all your ballets, your dance recitals," said Sherry Bell, Biloxi's Assistant Parks & Recreation Director.  "So we try to accommodate all of them, and the only way we could do that was come up with the three-day rental for recitals only."

But Burke says her show should not fall under that new policy.

"It's not a recital, because it's more of a play.  It's classic and I do not bring my entire dance studio in," said Burke.

"I think my reservationist said it was called a recital.  So automatically that's three days," said Bell. "Mrs. Burke is saying it's a show and she has been in there, so I just think somewhere down the line, there's a misunderstanding."

Burke is planning to put on a different production next year.  Both sides are talking, hoping this story has a happy ending.

"I apologized for the inconvenience, but at the same time told her that I wanted to continue to work things out with her.  What I did is I got the books open for 2010 and saw there were dates available.  So I think she and I are going to be able to work it out next year," said Bell.

There are two more performances of "A Christmas Carol."  One show is Friday at 7:00 P.M. and the final show is Saturday at 7:00 P.M.

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