The State Street Santa Window Production Delights Children and Adults Alike
Theatre Bristol celebrates Christmas this year by bringing its holiday show to its State Street storefront windows during the month of December. This stage right at the street features Christmas Scenes based on traditional stories of Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the elves. With a bit of improv and holiday spirit, Santa’s world comes to life in five walkable scenes of “Santa, Working from Home too,” “The North Pole,” “ ‘A Christmas Carol’ On the Air,” “Elves at Work… Sort of,” and “Presents Under the Tree.”
These same windows that once featured 1960s Ball Brothers Furniture store Christmas displays, are again spotlighting Christmas with red and green, lights and activity, and most of all, wonder. This holiday’s window display holds bits of the past in the windows themselves, as well as set pieces, props, and costumes from past Theatre Bristol productions.
In the windows, Santa and Mrs. Claus are busy at work, checking lists, mapping the reindeer journey, responding to letters, and reviewing the elves’ toy-making. Sometimes, though, it’s time to take a break and make some cookies, decorate the tree, or take a nap. Visiting children may catch a glimpse of a wink or a smile from Santa. The elves make toys and wrap gifts to Christmas music all around. There are surprises too, every visit is a new experience.
Already the response has been what was hoped to achieve, as shared by a mother via Instagram to Theatre Bristol: “Thank you for the Santa and Mrs. Claus window scene! It has been such a joy during such a strange Christmas season! This was a way for my children to see Santa in a safe way during a pandemic! We are grateful!!!”
Actors associated with Theatre Bristol participate in family groups, including eight Santas, six Mrs. Clauses, and even more elves, with a rotating schedule of Sunday afternoons 2 to 4 pm; Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings from 5:00 to 7:30 pm; and Saturdays 10 to 12 pm, 2 to 4 pm, and 5 to 7:30 pm.
Because of COVID, actors observe strict COVID guidelines and perform in family groups–ten families total participating this year. As a result, the actors in the family have convinced other family members to participate. The Campbell family recruited father Chris to join wife Tracy and daughter Chloe, veteran actors, and Gianna Gobble recruited husband Steve.
Santa Robert McCrary shares, “It’s been tremendous fun for both my wife and I to occupy the Santa house on State Street! I have enjoyed being on stage for many years with Theatre Bristol productions, but this was the very first time for my wife. The Santa house is beautiful and always inspires us to show a happy and fun Claus couple! We especially love the excitement and joy of the kids on the street. For just a moment, Santa and Mrs. Claus are rock stars!”
Many participating have their own special connection with playing Santa.
Veteran actor Steve Baskett, has donned the Santa suit twice on the Theatre Bristol stage, as the reformed Scrooge in Scrooge the Musical, and now participates several days a week on the “State Street” stage.
Michael Henningson has portrayed Santa for many years, and Santas from throughout the years, including St. Nicholas. His father once played Santa as well, and Michael makes his own Santa elaborate suits.
Ben Mays and his wife Kimberly have performed in many theatre productions, but have long wanted to play Santa and Mrs. Claus–even purchasing a Santa suit 15 years ago that now gets weekly use.
Directing Santa in many Theatre Bristol productions, including a Scrooge turned Santa in Scrooge the Musical and a truthful one in Miracle on 34th Street, Glenn Patterson deftly takes on any role, including Santa. He is joined by his talented wife as Mrs. Claus, Leticia Peltzer.
Even Theatre Bristol Board member Ann Vance, who has never been on stage but who has been and assistant stage manager for many shows, takes a turn as Mrs. Claus. Her granddaughter, Theatre Bristol Youth Service Board president Faith Vance, participates as an elf.
The White family, who has participated in many Theatre Bristol productions, are represented by elves Mason and Avery. Kyla Dula also plays an elf, and Shannon Dabney plays Mrs. Claus.
Santa Andrew Hunt shares, “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being a “Window Santa’.” There’s something extra cool when a child realises you’re looking and grinning right at them. A little wave and they smile like Santa knows who they are. Can’t top that great vibe. Thanks, Theatre Bristol, for this wonderful opportunity.”
While we cannot present our usual holiday production because of COVID, we are pleased to bring this Christmas production to this new “stage;” offer some joy; and even support downtown Bristol businesses and restaurants with a special attraction. Christmas Scenes gives our creative team and actors a safe opportunity to share their craft and we hope it keeps Theatre Bristol in everyone’s hearts during this time.
The activity is free of charge, and the Santa schedule and updates are available on Theatre Bristol’s Facebook page and at www.TheatreBristol.org. Donations to support the performing arts can be made at TheatreBristol.org/donate.
We invite you to visit the Facebook page for fun photos of our Santas and friends, and to share your own, tagging them #TBChristmas. Camille Gray is the set designer with Nicole Intagliata and Deanna Vanders helping with scenic art. Gray also manages the costuming, music, casting, and stage managing for this month-long production.
Camille shares, “I hope you enjoy the experience! It’s our gift to our community.” She adds, “The Christmas gift the Theatre needs this year is your support, and I know my time and donations are vital to supporting this community theatre. I hope you’ll join me and make a contribution.”
For more holiday spirit, Theatre Bristol invites you to enjoy its audio production of “A Christmas Carol” now airing on your favorite podcast service, and on 89.5 WETS radio at 8:00 pm on December 23, 2020.