Valdosta Daily Times

November 29, 2013

Playwright creates new show for Hahira church

Dean Poling
The Valdosta Daily Times

HAHIRA — Jackie Johnson’s latest play came to her in a dream, which is only appropriate since it is a play about all of the biblical dreams surrounding the birth of Christ.

Hahira United Methodist Church will present “Christmas Dreams” this weekend. The show is the latest one created by Johnson with musical arrangements by collaborator Willie Character.

Several years ago, Johnson moved to Hahira to be closer to her daughters, Jeanne Marie Gregory and Judy Long, as well as grandson Dustin. She had spent many years living in Waycross, working 20 years at Waycross College. There, Johnson taught sociology classes, served as administrative assistant to the college president, and worked in admissions and student records.

She also directed plays. She had participated in theatre during her high school days. At Waycross, she was asked to co-direct a play, not knowing the principal director planned on leaving.

She inherited the Waycross College theatre program, and loved it. She produced and directed numerous plays and musicals. Johnson also developed her creative partnership with Character.

In the early 1990s, they created the musical shows “Mama’s Boys Are Winning” and “Froggie Went a Courtin’” and now, two decades later, they have created “Christmas Dreams.”

Through the years, Jackie Johnson has continued her theatrical pursuits by creating short Christmas pageant pieces for Hahira United Methodist Church. She describes them as “short skits on Christmas Eve whenever the church couldn’t find one.”

Two years ago, she was asked to create a short play for Christmas Eve. She turned to the Bible for inspiration.

“I read Matthew and Luke, ... You don’t realize now many dreams there are,” Johnson says. Reading about all of the dreams surrounding Jesus’ birth inspired her dreams. She created a story about a girl who falls asleep during a Christmas Eve church service and she dreams of the “Christmas Dreams.”

But the church never performed this skit two years ago. Johnson’s beloved mother, Edna Johnson, died at the age of 93 only two days before Christmas 2011.

Instead of presenting the short Christmas skit, Jackie Johnson and sister Bobbie Johnson prepared for their mother’s funeral.

Their mother loved Christmas and the sisters had Christmas songs performed during the funeral service. They knew their mother would have loved the carols. Their mother also loved the children’s church song, “Jesus Loves Me.”

Since the “Christmas Dreams” skit was never performed, Jackie Johnson lengthened the story. She reached out to Character to arrange the music. She wanted to include “Jesus Loves Me” in the production, but she said nothing to Character about this wish. She did not want to tread on his musical vision for the show.

Much to her delight and amazement, Character included the children’s song, the song so loved by her mother, in the show without Jackie Johnson ever saying a word.

Christmas and dreams work their own brands of miracles.



“Christmas Dreams” plays 6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, Hahira United Methodist Church, 208 N. Church St., Hahira.