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History of Cancel Christmas
In 1975 I started a children’s acting class in order to have more time with my children, who were entering their teens. There were no charges for the classes, and about twenty or more children showed up every Saturday morning at the Sebastiani Theater in Sonoma, California. They were named, "The Mini-Players." I was very proud of them.
The Sebastiani Theater was built in 1933, by Samuel Sebastiani, who owned the local winery. The first live production in 1934, starred Edward G. Robinson. It was a beautiful theater, designed like the Fox theaters of that time. It seated 400, had a balcony, box seats, a proscenium arch and dressing rooms backstage. The movie screen could be flown, leaving a full stage; it was a delight to be there. I would love to have a theater like that near a large city where there are people who appreciate and support theater.
I was approached by the Director of the Boys’ and Girls’ Club of Sonoma, who asked me to write and produce a Halloween show for them. After the last show he asked me to produce a Christmas play. Rather than producing one of the old standards, I started writing Cancel Christmas and went into rehearsal with the Mini-Players before the second act was completed. I chose the title Cancel Christmas because of the note pinned on Santa’s door. It may sound negative at first, but people remember it.
Cancel Christmas was produced the following three years. Throughout the years music and dance were added. Paula Samonte wrote some very beautiful songs that have transformed the play into a mini musical. Other theater groups have produced it, and in 1982 a book was adapted from the play; then in 1996 the book was published. The book Cancel Christmas has also been translated into Spanish.
In 1996 Paula Samonte produced and directed it 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 good comments about the play from the children and their parents. This is a story/play for children of all ages
1999 it was produced at the Children’s Museum in San Diego, California. A screen play has been written for animation. The Marion Wright Agency (WGA) is representing the author.
2005 - The Huntington Beach Playhouse produced it at the Huntington Beach Library Theatre. It had good attendance and great response from the audience. Santa and Mrs. Santa were played by adults, the rest of the cast were mostly teens.
2006 - Produced at the Eagle Rock High School in Los Angeles. Over 2,000 people attended and it was a delight to all. The entire cast were teens. They used a sixteen piece orchestra and a choral group of about 40 people.
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 enjoy.
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:
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.