Santa's Last Christmas

Staff member brings late Christmas to campus

Kerong Kelly and Laura Crowley

Members of the campus community gathered in the Harvey Powers Theatre on Feb. 28 to read through Joe Gaughan’s original musical entitled, “Santa’s Last Christmas.” Gaughan, a facilities employee at the University, spent the last five years writing the play in partnership with the late Ed Rhoades and Rhoades’s daughter, Heather.

The read-through event, which was hosted and organized by Matt Dranzik ’13, had a workshop environment in which the audience could offer their thoughts and critiques at the end. The Writing Center, Residential Life and Cap and Dagger 2.0, who were all sponsors of the event, encouraged both students and non-students to provide feedback.

While the original concept was to just create a CD of Christmas music, the idea grew to a full-length play. The cast, which was comprised of 15 students and Gaughan, sat in a row on stage and each read various parts without costumes and props. In place of the live musical numbers, prerecorded renditions of the original music by Gaughan were incorporated throughout the reading.

Gaughan describes his play as a family-oriented show that gives Santa elements of human emotion. It also presents what he does as a job, which as we all know has stress and good and bad parts to it. Children are also shown Santa’s more forgiving side, as Gaughan includes parts in which Santa gives kids a second chance and encourages them to be good.

“It was so much fun and it was something that was so fresh. The script was malleable and I was honored to be a part of this work that Joe [Gaughan] has been working on for so long. I love the theater and have so much respect for someone who can put something together like that,” Evan Turissini ’16, who read the role of Santa during the workshop, said.

Gaughan incorporated prerecorded readings, which are also knows as MIDI. With MIDI recordings, a theater group who doesn’t have enough musicians can use the recordings when necessary. Additionally, the tone can be manipulated to accommodate different sounds. Gaughan hopes that the flexibility he has given with his recordings will encourage theater groups to pick up his play.

“The readers did an incredible job portraying the characters that Joe Gaughan and his co-writers created and made them lovable and enjoyable to listen to,” Dranzik said. 

One of Gaughan’s goals was to make Santa come to life and incorporate issues a real person would have, such as the stresses of a job and longing for a vacation.

“The reading ran smoothly and the audience and readers enjoyed watching it come to life,” Dranzik said. “Seeing Joe’s happiness throughout the reading and afterwards was more than enough to consider this event a success.”

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