The Depot Theater Company in Dodge City will offer a mix of music and nostalgia starting Dec. 6, when performances begin for their production of A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas.

The musical is described as “a Christmas tale featuring the characters from the much-loved Little House books.

Told with period songs, humor and depth of character, [it is] a story of healing that celebrates the importance of enduring family bonds.”

That description is especially appropriate, considering the actors cast for the production.

All four members of a local family, the Stammer's, hold major roles.

“I love what we’re doing; I love it that we’re all volunteers," said Mellisa Stammer, who plays Ma in the upcoming Depot Theater Company production. "There’s so much enthusiasm. You can tell that we all have a passion for acting and theater production.”

Everyone, from director to actors to light crew, works on a volunteer basis for the production.

Mellisa Stammer, however, has also volunteered several members of her own family.

Mellisa’s husband Bryan plays Pa in the production, and two of their children, Zeke, 14, and Charlie, 9, are cast as Johnny and Carrie.

“I’ve been doing this with Mellisa for about four years now,” Bryan Stammer said. “One day she just told me that she was in a production that needed set builders.

"From there, I learned how to run the spotlight. Then one day she told me that a production needed another male actor, so I did that too.”

Mellisa also got her mother involved.

“We’re often the whole light department,” Mellisa said. “I run the board, and Bryan and Mom are on the spotlights.”

While the Stammers rehearse in the evenings, they also work full-time jobs.

Mellisa manages the Dollar General store in Cimarron, and Bryan is a patrol sergeant for the Ford County Sheriff’s Office and works at night.

The Depot Theater Company’s production of A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas marks the beginning of a new chapter for the production company.

“We have a new director, Christopher King, who is also a volunteer. He has amazing experience,” said Mellisa. “He’s worked with productions in New York and Philadelphia. Right now, he also does freelance reviews of play scripts.”

In addition to a history of directing, King has another quality that endears him to the Stammer family.

“He’s incredibly patient with everyone, especially the children in the cast,” said Bryan.

As part of its plan for changes, the Depot Theater Company hopes to appeal to a new audience, according to Bryan.

“We’re going to be offering more family-friendly productions in the future,” he said.

“This production is something everyone in the family can relate to: kids, parents, grandparents can all identify with the highs and lows of family life.

{Also, Laura Ingalls Wilder is someone everyone in Kansas knows about. I was raised in southeast Kansas, and I remember, as a kid in school, every year we took a field trip to the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Independence.”

Mellisa is so excited about the story that she recently made a purchase for some of her fellow cast members.

“I was in South Dakota not too long ago,” she said, “where I bought two Laura Ingalls Wilder books for the girls in the cast.”

The spirit of family is evident throughout the cast of volunteers, according to both Bryan and Melisa.

“I got my whole family involved in this,” Mellisa said, “and now I feel like, with the cast and crew, we have an even bigger family.”

All performances of A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas are dinner theater productions, with a period traditional Christmas meal of roast beef with mashed potatoes, green beans, and corn chowder, topped off with an apple cranberry crumble for dessert.

For more information about this production and the dinner offered as part of that experience, visit the Depot Theater  Company website at depottheaterco.com/on-stage/.

Performances are set for Dec. 6, 7, and 8, Dec. 13, 14, and 15, and Dec. 20, 21, and 22.

Tickets for Depot Theater Company Productions can be reserved by calling the box office at 620-225-1001, or they can be purchased from their online store at https://app.arts-people.com/index.php?actions=4&p=1.