Nov. 28 – POTTSVILLE – A heartwarming Christmas story was presented in the production of ‘Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus’ at the Majestic Theater on Sunday.
Sunday’s performance was the conclusion of a three-day play sponsored in part by the Republican Herald. Written by Jamie Gorski, the play was inspired by real events that arise from a simple question: “Is there a Santa Claus?”
This request was made to The New York Sun in 1897 by 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon. In response, Sun editor Francis P. Church wrote what is believed to be the most reprinted editorial in the English language.
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa,” Church wrote. “It exists as surely as love, generosity and devotion, and you know that they abound and bring your life to its utmost beauty and joy.”
Some 125 years after the editorial’s publication, the Majestic Theater presented its adaptation of the classic fairy tale in a captivating production directed by Samantha Simatos.
“Virginia” is a tight, understated piece that focuses on serving its story along with its themes of celebrating Christmas and keeping its magic alive.
The story revolves around Virginia (Genevieve Smith) who questions Santa’s existence after her friends tell her he’s not real. She eventually crosses paths with Church (Peter Schachte), who is portrayed as a struggling reporter about to lose his job.
As Church faces his own challenges, Virginia sets out to write the paper, encouraged by her father’s advice that “if you see it in the sun, so be it.”
On Christmas Eve, a hopeless, stressed-out church is tasked with writing an answer to a request from Virginia, whose name he doesn’t know at the time.
He reluctantly accepts the assignment, fighting at first but later throwing himself wholeheartedly into the task. What follows is a tale of wonder, redemption and joy when the O’Hanlon family sees the editorial printed in the newspaper the next day and Virginia’s faith is confirmed.
With a mixed-age cast and simple but effective set design and direction, “Virginia” served as a rousing introduction to the holiday season from The Majestic Theatre.
Other characters in the play were Mother O’Hanlon (Melissa Rozetar), Father O’Hanlon (Nate Heater), Samantha O’Hanlon (Madison McBreen), and Walter Gibson (Marcus Smith), the editor-in-chief of The Sun.
After the performance, Genevieve Smith thanked the theater and the Republican Herald for their involvement in the production. She also thanked technical director AJ Avezzano; technical assistants Ryleigh Marr and Kamryn Felty; and Simatos, whom she called “the best director in the world.”
The final scene of the play featured all 16 cast members sharing the stage to read Church’s immortal editorial.
As evidenced by the enduring popularity of the play and the story it is based on, Church’s words still ring true today, inspiring countless people each Christmas season.
“(Santa Claus) lives forever,” Church wrote. “In a thousand years, Virginia, no, in ten times ten thousand years, he will continue to delight the heart of childhood.”
Contact the author: [email protected]; 570-628-6085