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Westfield High Presents 'Ho-Ho Holiday Shows'

Sure to entertain children and grownups, alike, Westfield High presents its 2007 "Ho-Ho Holiday Shows." On stage will be "The Grinch," "'Twas the Night," "Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins," "Charlie Brown," "Rudy the Red-Nosed Reindeer," "A Hanukkah Story" and "Frosty the Snowman."

Two performances are slated for Friday, Dec. 21, at 10 a.m. and noon. Tickets are $4 at the door, and each show is student-directed by seniors; stage manager is Carrie Houston, and assistant stage managers are Morgan Krause and Leah Troscianecki.

<b>'Twas the Night</b>

Ben Reese and Lindsay Thomas both acted in "'Twas the Night" previously, and now they're directing it together. And Reese says it's a bit different from the classic.

"Three people will narrate the story, there'll be a lot of actors and dancers, and it's set to the music of the Trans Siberian Orchestra," he explained. "The kids start dreaming and go into the world of the Sugarplum Fairies, and then there's dancing and a guitar battle — almost a swordfight with guitars."

Reese said his toughest task is getting the actors' movements coordinated with the music, but he's enjoying seeing other people act and not being on stage, himself. This play has a cast of 15-20, and Reese said past audiences have really liked the music.

"It's so strong," he said. "And it's a spectacle to watch with the lights, dancing and rock-and-roll music."

<b>A Hanukkah Story</b>

Directing "A Hanukkah Story" are Sarah Cowdery and Allison Wruk. "It's about the first Hanukkah and where it came from," said Wruk. And not only is the play funny and exciting, she said, but it "also teaches a lot of history."

It tells of the Macabees' rebellion and how their oil burns for eight nights. "We show a family at dinner and the grandfather tells the story," said Wruk. "The other characters are Judah and his father, the evil Roman emperor and the other family members — about 20-25 people total."

She said sharing actors among the other plays makes rehearsals tricky, as well as figuring out who's in what play. But, she added, "It'll be fun getting to know the underclassmen one-on-one, learn more about Jewish culture and work with Sarah."

<b>Charlie Brown</b>

Mariam Haider and Lee Doubleday are directing "Charlie Brown." Doubleday said Charlie's "trying to bring back Christmas the way it's supposed to be, and not commercialized. He gets a scrawny, real Christmas tree, instead of a pink, metal one, and everyone gets mad at him."

Eventually, though, said Doubleday, Linus explains the true meaning of Christmas and everyone's happy. The play has a cast of 21 and, since Doubleday portrayed Charlie Brown last year, he's "having fun directing it this time and seeing new faces."

Likewise, said Haider, "I was in it, my freshman year, so it's cool to direct it now." They both said the toughest thing is "getting 21 people to listen to two." But Doubleday's enjoying meeting the younger actors, and Haider says the best part will be "watching the final product and knowing we did it," plus seeing the actors' abilities grow.

Doubleday says the audience will love this play because "it's really heartwarming and tells the true meaning of Christmas." Added Haider: "It's a really diverse cast, from freshmen to seniors, so the audience will get to see the variety and generations Westfield has to offer."

<b>Frosty the Snowman,</b>

Directing "Frosty the Snowman" are Mandy Bains and Joyce Kim. "Professor Hinkle has a magic hat that brings Frosty to life, and the kids find it and put it on Frosty," said Kim. "But a magician wants it because of its magic and tries to get it from Frosty. So the kids try to take Frosty to the North Pole."

Kim said it's fun to experience directing and being on the other side of the stage, for a change. "It's challenging, as well, since there are so many kids — 20 or more," she said. "We have to remember each of their names and put them in the right roles."

But she can hardly wait to watch them perform. "I'm really excited to see the end product, and I think kids and families will enjoy this play," said Kim. "They'll like the familiarity of the story and the spirit of Frosty. Every little kid loves Frosty and seeing him come to life."

<b>Hershel, Hanukkah Goblins</b>

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins" is new this year, and directing it are Jonathan Goldsmith and Neil Gunn. It's a Jewish, bedtime story teaching children about Hanukkah, and the students converted it to a play.

"Hershel comes to a town where they don't celebrate Hanukkah because the Goblins forbid it," explained Gunn. "They put a curse on the town, and the only way to break it is for Hershel to spend eight nights in an old synagogue on a hill."

He meets a different goblin, each night, and they try to prevent him from lighting the candles. They get scarier, each time, and finally — on the eighth night — Hershel meets the king of the goblins. But eventually, the power of Hanukkah wins.

"Ho-Ho" directors last week auditioned student actors for every play, and Gunn and Goldsmith had to choose 15 from a field of 100. But everyone who auditioned got a part in at least one play. Gunn said Hershel would be "like a savior — powerful, but kind."

He said the hardest thing about directing was "conveying the directors' image and vision to the actors," but he, too, is eagerly awaiting showtime. And he expects the audience to love this play because it's "full of action and is new, different and exciting."

<b>Rudy ... Reindeer</b>

Kyla Waitt and Jade Jones are directing "Rudy the Red-Nosed Reindeer," described by Waitt as "the basic Rudolph story, but a little more modern, with hip dialogue. For example, the reindeer will tell Rudulph, 'You can't play video games.'"

It has a cast of 20 and, said Waitt, "It's fun directing; it's a lot different from acting because you get to make all the decisions." She said it's tough figuring out how to explain a specific vision to the actors, but she likes working with the new ones. Said Waitt: "It's nice having an imprint on their lives and on a big thing they'll do in theater."

She also said the audience should enjoy the script changes they made. For instance, said Waitt, "The costumes will be spray-painted T-shirts for the reindeer, instead of just being brown and plain."

<b>The Grinch</b>

Directing "The Grinch" are Nick Cirillo and Cate Lightburn. "We'll have narrators read the book, and in between their lines from the story will be lines from the movie with Jim Carrey," said Cirillo.

It's a fairly large cast, including four narrators and 15-20 Whos. The Grinch will be loud with big acting motions and, said Cirillo, "The Whos will be energetic, sweet and innocent — people who love Christmas a lot."

He's enjoying being in a leadership position and learning about directing. As for the audience, he said, "Everybody loves the movie Grinch, and you don't see that Grinch in many children's shows, so it'll be a big surprise."

Among those auditioning last week were senior Nia McKenzie, freshmen Avery Hobbs and Victoria Warrick, and sophomore Nick Ketner. "It's pretty exciting because I've never acted before, so it brings out another side of me," said McKenzie. "My friends told me to do it, so I'm listening to them."

A dancer with Encore for six years, Hobbs vied for a dancing part in "'Twas the Night." For her audition, she said, "We had to do a pirouette and a leap, and it went really well. I wanted to try out because I love Christmas, and my theater teacher [Zoe Dillard]said there was a dancing number that would suit me."

Warrick's danced for 11 years and was in chorus, instead of theater, so she wanted to do something different. "I liked auditioning," she said. "Normally, I have to sing a few bars, but this time was mainly improv." Ketner thought it would be fun to be in "Charlie Brown." He did improv related to the play, plus readings from the script. Said Ketner: "Hopefully, I did OK."