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(ABC Players)

ABC Players adapt Christmas classic for hard economic times

Most Christmas stories involve a red-nosed reindeer or an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle; but this December, the ABC players will present a show with a different message.

Dec. 2-4, ,the ABC Players will present An O. Henry Christmas, a collection of Christmas stories written by early-20th century writer William Sydney Porter, who wrote under the pen name O. Henry.

The Players, however, are adding a little Christmas magic to their performance. The show comprises an original prologue featuring a Salvation Army worker and a nativity scene and adaptations to three classic stories all with separate directors: “The Cop and the Anthem,” “The Last Leaf,” and “The Gift of the Magi.” Each story stays true to O. Henry’s original story but are adaptations by Sandra Russell, Marlo Tinkham, and Cecilia Rinaldi, according to a news release.

Artistic director Sandra Russell had the idea to write adaptions to the stories because “these stories are appropriate for our hard economic times, as they speak of gift giving – not about the gifts you buy, but about what you intrinsically have in you to give,” she stated in the news release.  

“The Cop and the Anthem,” directed by Tinkham, the president of the ABC Players, who also adapted the story, is about a homeless man, Soapy, who refuses charity and annually gets arrested to be able to spend the cold winter months in jail – or what he calls “the island.”

Tinkman said she looked for an actor to play Soapy who “could handle the physical comedy demands … and to explore the character in a fresh yet honest way,” which she said she found in James Euto, a 10-year actor who has done one other show with the ABC Players.

Euto described his character as a protagonist who is goofy and well-liked. He said that, though he is not homeless, he can relate to Soapy.

“I started a degree in biology … and felt lost and lonely like Soapy for many years before I found acting,” Euto said. “I can relate to his wayward ways, being in the middle of something that you are not sure about and then giving that up to go in another direction.”

Tinkman said she took an “avant garde” approach to the story, a process that she said has taught her a few lessons.

“The best thing you can do as an artist is to portray the world how you see it, not try to copy someone else's creation,” Tinkman said. “Through commitment of a strong cast and a supportive, playful environment, we have found a unique way to portray this piece and remain true to the story that O. Henry wrote.”

The other two stories are “The Last Leaf,” directed by Russell, about a woman who is about to give up a fight with pneumonia when her friends step in, and the well-known story “The Gift of the Magi,” directed by Rinaldi and Kaylla Steadman, about a couple who attempt to give each other the perfect Christmas gift.

Following each performance, the audience is invited to carol in the lobby with the cast and crew.

If You Go

What: An O. Henry Christmas

When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2-3; 2 p.m. Dec. 4

Where: Stuart’s Opera House

Admission: $5

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