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Christmas Stories  

Performances: Friday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 9, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 10, at 2 p.m., at the MCTP Theatre, North End Montessori School, 698 Beech St., Manchester; and Friday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 16, at 12:30 and 7 p.m., at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 180 Loudon Road, Concord
Cost: Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children. There is a $25 maximum rate for families. 
More info: Visit manchestercommunitytheatre.com or call 224-4393.




Tales of the season
Manchester Players perform Christmas Stories

12/14/17
By Angie Sykeny asykeny@hippopress.com



 An original New Hampshire holiday play returns to the stage when the Manchester Community Theatre Players present Christmas Stories, opening Friday, Dec. 8, in Manchester and Friday, Dec. 15, in Concord. 

The play is made up of three Christmas stories that are woven together: “The Christmas Prayer” follows a stressed out, fighting couple whose children pray to have a happy family again and have their prayer answered. “Just What I Always Wanted” is about a man stuck in credit card debt and trying to make ends meet who discovers the true meaning of Christmas. “The Bell Ringer” is about Christmas shopping mayhem and a Salvation Army Santa with a secret identity. 
Written by local author and playwright Tom Anastasi in 2003, with music by Peter Bridges, the play has been produced 11 times by theater companies in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Florida, and won the 2004 New Hampshire Theatre Award for Best Original Play. 
“I’ve always wanted to write a Christmas play,” said Anastasi, who is also the director. “The Christmas season has always been my favorite season, and I always loved watching Christmas movies, but every time I watched them, they didn’t have certain elements that I wanted, so I wanted to write a play that people could relate to, that had funny parts, serious parts and reflective parts and made people feel good after watching it.” 
While three separate stories, the stories take place in the same New Hampshire town during the same year, from Dec. 23 to Christmas night, and intersect at points as the characters in each story know characters from the others and have an impact on each other’s lives. 
In past productions the stories were each told from beginning to end consecutively, going back in time to Dec. 23 for the start of each one. This year, Anastasi is trying a new concept in which the play goes back and forth between stories as it progresses in a single timeline. 
He said a theater group in Florida performed the play a couple weeks ago using the new concept for the first time and told him that it “worked out great.” 
“Going back in time to see how the pieces intermix works well in some ways, but I think doing it chronologically gives it a different flavor that works really well,” Anastasi said. 
Christmas Stories features original music accompanied by a live orchestra, and new this year, it will also incorporate some traditional Christmas carols. 
“People really seem to like the songs,” Anastasi said. “I get a lot of comments afterward from people that they are humming the songs for days after seeing the play.” 
While the play isn’t entirely a comedy, there are some comedic scenes. There’s one where a woman shopping on Christmas Eve enters a “10 items or fewer” lane with 12 items and causes an uproar from the other shoppers as they throw things at her. In one of Anastasi’s favorite scenes, a real food fight takes place onstage. 
“The kids really love that one,” he said. “They get to do something that they could never do at home.” 
The cast consists of 16 actors, with a mix of adults and children, all performing in the play for the first time. For many, Anastasi said, it’s the first play they’ve ever done. 
Also new this year is the set, for which the backdrops are changing digital projections of various locations. A number of those locations were shot locally and include buildings and landmarks that people living in New Hampshire may recognize. 
“It may not be a big-name [play] that everyone has heard of before, but it’s a play that everyone can relate to, especially at Christmas time,” Anastasi said. “People can see themselves in the characters and in the stories.”





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