Posts Tagged Christmas play

Video: Staged reading of “Klaus” by Hollins Playwright’s Lab

“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

* Background on the show
* Photos from first day of rehearsal
* Photos from second day of rehearsal
* Photos from third day of rehearsal
* Photos from the staged reading of “Klaus”

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Photos from Saturday’s rehearsal for “Klaus”

The staged reading of “Klaus,” my Christmas show about the origins of Santa Claus, continues to take shape. .

The reading is Sunday, Dec. 16 at 6 p.m. at the June M. McBroom Theatre at Community High School in Roanoke, Va.; the reading is put on by the Hollins Playwright’s’ Lab.

Earlier, I posted photos from Thursday’s rehearsal and Friday’s rehearsal. Here are some photos from Saturday’s rehearsal, which emphasis on Brian O’Sullivan, who plays the titular role of Professor Klaus, a mysterious German physics professor who shows up at a failing British college in the 1740s and sets tongues wagging with his strange ideas.

Klaus (played by Brian O'Sullivan) jokes about his girth to the class he's teaching at a woebegone British college in the 1700s.

Klaus (played by Brian O’Sullivan) jokes about his girth to the class he’s teaching at a woebegone British college in the 1700s.

Klaus enjoys teaching natural philosophy (as physics was called in those days), but his students -- played by Kevin McAlexander, Blair Peyton and Will Coleman -- are less amused.

Klaus enjoys teaching natural philosophy (as physics was called in those days), but his students — played by Kevin McAlexander, Blair Peyton and Will Coleman — are less amused.

Klaus with his students again. I believe this is the scene where many of them (especially Percy, played by Blair, in the center) have shown up with hangovers. Either that, or it's a scene in the ale-house where the students spend much of their time.

Klaus with his students again. I believe this is the scene where many of them (especially Percy, played by Blair, in the center) have shown up with hangovers. Either that, or it’s a scene in the ale-house where the students spend much of their time.

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Rehearsal starts for staged reading of “Klaus”

Rehearsals started Thursday night for Sunday night’s staged reading of “Klaus,” my darkly comic Christmas play on the origin of Santa Claus that the Hollins Playwright’s Lab is putting on.

Here are some photos:

The headmaster of a failing British college (Ross Laguzza, in black) catches three students (Kevin McAlexander, Blair Peyton and Will Coleman) carousing in an ale-house.

The headmaster of a failing British college (Ross Laguzza, in black) catches three students (Kevin McAlexander, Blair Peyton and Will Coleman) carousing in an ale-house. Worse, they’re holding their glasses (which you’ll have to imagine for now) over water glasses, a favorite trick of those in the 1700s who believed the true royal family was the ousted House of Stuart, not the reigning House of Hanover. Jacobites, as the Stuart supporters were called, famously toasted “the king over the water.” The show deals with the arrival of a mysterious German professor – Professor Klaus — at a college where support for the German-born Hanovers runs thin, and treason runs deep among the students. The headmaster is trying to stamp out such political sentiments in hopes of currying favor with the king — and perhaps a royal bequest to get the college out of debt. That’s also why he brought in Professor Klaus, although he knows next to nothing about him.

More carousing from our ne'er-do-well students, who are harbor strong anti-German feelings -- when they're not busy drinking and skipping class. From left, Kevin McAlexander, Blair Peyton and Will Coleman.

More carousing from our ne’er-do-well students, who harbor strong anti-German feelings — when they’re not busy drinking and skipping class and generally causing trouble. From left, Kevin McAlexander, Blair Peyton and Will Coleman. That’s Ross Laguzza, the headmaster, in the background. This may be the only Christmas show you’ve seen that set partly in an ale-house and includes a reference to a brothel.

Director Cheryl Snodgrass has come in from Chicago to oversee the reading. She specializes in working with new plays.

Director Cheryl Snodgrass has come in from Chicago to oversee the reading. She specializes in working with new plays.

The show is Sunday, Dec. 16 at the June M. McBroom Theatre at Community High School in downtown Roanoke. It’s also free. More details here. And more photos to come (including, perhaps, one of the actor who plays Klaus!)

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