“Klaus” is my Christmas play about the origin of Santa Claus. There’s no standard myth on where the Jolly Old Elf came from, so I invented one. In my telling, his origin dates to Great Britain in the 1740s, at a time of political unrest. The German-born Hanoverian kings (George II, in this case) were on the throne, and many Germans were coming into the country to seek their fortune. This kindled talk of rebellion among those who still believed the ousted House of Stuart was the rightful royal family.
In “Klaus,” a debt-ridden English college imports a German professor of natural philosophy (physics, we call it now) in hopes of currying favor with the king, and perhaps getting a royal bequest or two. Professor Klaus turns out to be an eccentric sort, dabbling in strange experiments with time travel.
By the show’s end, he has turned into the Santa Claus we know today, and everything about him is explained — the red suit, the reindeer, the love of milk and cookies, his residence at the North Pole, even Mrs. Claus.
“Klaus” was supposed to be the Christmas show at Studio Roanoke, a black box theatre in Roanoke, Va., specializing in new works. Alas, it closed in mid-summer. Fortunately, the Hollins Playwright’s Lab picked up the show — not for a full production but at least for a very well-rehearsed staged reading. Director Cheryl Snodgrass came in from Chicago to oversee things and we had an all-star cast for the reading on December 16. We also had a fantastic crowd; program director Todd Ristau said it was four times larger than had shown up for any previous reading in the series.
I had some trouble with the video camera. The video of act 1 (above) cuts off the introductory remarks and the first few lines. The video of act 2 (below) didn’t start until after the first scene had concluded. And the audio is poor. But you’ll get the idea. I hope to make a few changes to the script based on this reading and then send it out to publishers and theatres.
Klaus: Brian O’Sullivan
Robert, a college student: Kevin McAlexander
Percy, a college student: Blair Peyton
James, a college student: Will Coleman
Mary the landlady: Martha Boswell
Headmaster: Ross Laguzza
Grinchley, the headmaster’s assistant: Drew Dowdy
Director: Cheryl Snodgrass
Stage manager: Melissa Kennedy