History of "Cancel Christmas," at the Sonoma Sebastiani Theatre
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                 The History of  THE PLAY CANCEL CHRISTMAS  

In 1976 I was asked to do a Christmas show for the Boys and Girls club of Sonoma, CA. I told them I would be happy to, if I could do something new, as I had done for them when I produced a Halloween show. They liked the Halloween show, so they said, ”Fine.” It was already into November when I brought my “Mini Players,” a group of my acting students, into the first rehearsal. I had been teaching acting to them that last summer. By that time I had most of the first act written.
            I started writing, without a clue of what I was going to write about, except that I had about 26 children, ages from about 9 years old to about 17 years old, and I wanted to write something with a cast of at least 26 characters. Of course that brought to mind Santa Claus and his elves. What I wrote, I do not take complete credit for. I was just typing and the words appeared. Call it a Muse, Santa, God or inspiration, all I know is the words came to me, and a play was written. It was produced in the Sebastiani Theater near the Sonoma Plaza. It was successful, and was produce for three Christmas seasons.
            Other Groups in cities such as Petaluma and San Rafael requested scripts so they could produce it. I moved to Southern California and produced it there. At this writing, numerous other groups have produced Cancel Christmas, along with request for scripts from organizations in Europe. I have produced Cancel Christmas a number of times myself. Even took the role of Santa Claus when I lost my actor.  Thus, I know the feeling of being Santa Claus.
            When I first wrote Cancel Christmas I used Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  When I saw that others wanted to produce it, and when I decided to write the book, I felt that I should get permission to use Rudolph. I contacted Gene Autry’s people, who referred me to St. Nicholas Publishing in New York City, at the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway, on 49th Street, in New York City. I lived in NYC, off and on, throughout the years, worked with songwriters, and knew the Brill Building.
            I had been in the building many times with friends, who were songwriters. It was a place where “guys” sat at their desks, with a cigar in their mouths, and when asked a question, talked, and talked, but said nothing. That is what I ran into when I phoned St Nicholas Publishing Co. – I could get no kind of a commitment, so I sent a copy of the script, with a request for permission to use Rudolph. I never received an answer. I was completing the book, so I decided to create my own glowing reindeer, thus “Flasher” came into being.
            Once I chose Flasher, I was glad that I did, however, at the time, I would have been happy to have used Rudolph. I felt it would also be a good way to publicize Rudolph’s song. It didn’t happen, and I went ahead with Flasher. There is a song about flasher in the play now. At some time in the evolution of the play; for I kept re-writing and improving the play, my ex-wife, Paula Samonte, wrote some songs for the play. Paula’s songs have turned this play into a delightful musical, with dancing and solos, throughout.
            I was invited to sell my books at many of the productions. Some of the comments from people, buying my book, were very encouraging. “This book is needed for the children, growing up in this time of turmoil and corruption.” “My husband dislikes going to children’s plays, but he really enjoyed this one.” “I got teary eyed when Santa rescued Bogwig.” From this feedback I received from the audiences, who were mostly adults, I got the feeling that this was important to get out to everyone; especially to the children. I also realized that it is for “Children of all ages.” When I first wrote Cancel Christmas; for me, it was a one shot deal. I never had any thought of ever doing it again. A book was the farthest thing from my mind.  I am not much of a businessman.
            Now, with all of the positive feedback, I want to see it in full blossom. Last year I thought of doing it for the Ashland Elk’s; I am an Elk member for many years. It was too late in the season for last year, so I started some planning for this year 2014. The Elk’s will permit me to teach the children of Ashland acting, on the stage at the lodge. There will be no charge, classes are free.
            I will be repeating my first actions from 1976. I will teach children the basics of acting that are sometimes neglected. I know from the productions that I have directed, how important those basics are. When people saw the productions in Sonoma, with my Mini-players, the comments were very complementary to the children in the play. I don’t charge, classes are free, and the plan is to bring the school children of Ashland to see this production at no charge, free. It is possible to view scenes from past productions on youtube by searching “parsecsam,” or on my website bogwig.com.
            I will need many volunteers, who love working with children. There are costumes, props, sets, and assistance with lighting, sound, stage work, and promotion. It will be shown to the school children, and to the members, on the stage in the Ashland Elk’s Lodge 944. I am, also, seeking a venue where it can be shown to the public, and can help to offset some of the expenses that will be incurred. Anyone interested in creating a fundraiser, or helping in one, is most welcome. Supporters of all kind are welcome to assist in the production. I can be reached at santa@bogwig.com. We have to start now, in order to make it a total success.

In 1982, Sam began converting the play into story form. Thus, the story of Cancel Christmas became a published book in 1996. In 2002 a screenplay was written; a Writers Guild agent represented it. An illustrated version of the book was published in 2013. It is a story for parents to read with their children. Read it to them if they are too young to read, but otherwise, read it with them, and see the play.

                                  History Dates

1976, 77, 78 - Produced at the Sebastiani Theatre, in Sonoma, CA
1978 – Produced in Petaluma, CA 
1996 - Paula Samonte produced and directed the play in Ukiah, California. It was also produced at the Patio Playhouse in Escondido, California; directed by Torre Younghans, who played Bogwig in the original production. We received many great comments about the play from the children and their parents. This is a story/play for children of all ages.
1996 – An adaptation of the play was published in book form.
1999 - The play was produced at the Children’s Museum in San Diego, California.

2005 - The Huntington Beach Playhouse produced it at the Huntington Beach Library Theatre. It had good attendance and great response from the audience. Adults played Santa and Mrs. Santa, the rest of the cast were mostly teens. Over fifty books were sold at the production.

2006 - Produced at the Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles. Over 2,200 people attended and it was a delight to all. The entire cast was teens. They used a sixteen-piece orchestra and a choral group of about 40 people. Over 75 books were sold at the production.

2007 - An illustrator, Cindi Valverde, started illustrations for the new version of the book. You can see the illustrations and many photos from the many productions of Cancel Christmas on: www.bogwig.com. It is also on the Parsecsam channel on Youtube.com

 2013 – The illustrated version of Cancel Christmas was published in 2013. Illustrated by Cindi Valverde.

A screenplay has been written for live or animated presentation. The Marion Wright Agency (WGA), since retired, was representing the author.

At the present time, we are getting queries from all over the country for scripts to produce the play.
 
 

              The Style of Cancel Christmas

The first draft of Cancel Christmas was written for children to perform for children, although later productions used older people for the main roles, and it was performed for adults as well as children. Cancel Christmas is for children of all ages. The performance was with the children, who had been in the writer's acting class. They were responsive, attentive and committed. They were in rehearsal while the second act was being written. 

The response of the production was good and it was requested for the following year. At that point, the writer started revising and improving the script. Watching the many productions (produced in both Southern and Northern California.) helped mold the play - each successive year, revisions were added or items dropped.. The concept was to have a play that would emulate the Christmas spirit of the twenties, thirties and the forties. Those years were wonderful years for Christmas. 

The songs and stories written during that era are timeless; the standards of today's Christmas. The writer wanted Cancel Christmas to be of that era. He wanted to bring out the love and caring of Santa, Mrs. Santa and the elves, in contrast with Bogwig and the evil trolls. There would be no toys that emulated violence or hate, no arguing or dissension among the elves. The elves wanted to help Santa, they followed Gribby, who was Santa's right hand man. There were no frowns, arguing or acts of frustration. Santa's works shop was a happy, warm, loving place. The elves were alive with excitement and energy; an example for the children.

For contrast, Bogwig and the trolls, were evil, argumentative, hateful and menacing. The chant "Bring Back the Bad" was written in the first draft - it shows the evil, with humor, in a melodramatic style. Audiences laugh and applaud it. At all productions the audience response was excellent. 

Paula Samonte, who wrote many of the songs that, years later, were introduced into the play, helped with the first three years of the production in Sonoma, California. Paula is a professional singer and actress. She knew the flavor of the play, and wrote the songs with that in mind. The songs are repetitious, and simple with a familiar sound. This was done with the children in mind. The songs show the love and caring of Santa, Mrs. Santa and the elves. Because they are simple and familiar, children remember them. And, they will remember Cancel Christmas. 

                                A Note to Directors: 
As you know, each director has his own concepts and inspirations that are brought into the direction of a play. That is good, as long as the theme and feelings of the play as envisioned by the writer are not changed to the point of being a new and different play. That is the reason publishers set the rules, about revisions and cuts, and that is the reason I wrote this little introduction. If you enter into this production with the knowledge and goal of the play, any concepts or changes you bring in, should only help the play convey that feeling. 

The writer has produced and directed Cancel Christmas numerous times, even played the role of Santa one season. He hopes the director will have an enjoyable production.

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