The Sugar Creek Players Do Us Proud

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You know you are in Indiana when your rental car comes with an ice scraper, but the weather Gods smiled on Laura Ambler and me the first weekend in December 2018. We never needed the scraper, but I was glad I’d packed an umbrella.

We flew into Indianapolis and drove to Crawfordsville. An hour on the interstate led us right to the Vanity Theater.


It’s a thrill to see our play in marquis lights.

On opening night the house was full and we were escorted to our seats by two of the cast members who play volunteer firemen in the show.


After welcoming remarks by Director Keith Strain, the firemen escorted us to the stage where Crawfordsville Mayor, Todd Barton,  presented us with a proclamation announcing this week as The Santa Diaries week.


The stage at the Vanity Theater is tight…just 22 feet wide. It’s deep however, and the director made use of several levels including a scrim (you can see it on the photo above with a photo projected on it) and a small raised area which served as Timmy’s bedroom.


Sandy, Will, Martha, Brandeee and Josh. Then the Casserole Ladies begin to arrive.


When most of the cast is on stage, it’s crowded, but risers in the back help.


Adorable elves help Sandy read letters to Santa.


Marley Dog, Timmy and Will


There was an after party on Friday night where all the cast and crew gathered.


On Saturday Director Keith Strain and his wife, Betsy, took us to lunch. And in the afternoon a local cooperative art gallery hosted a reception for us. Laura and I supported the local ecomomy and bought jewelry and met people from this vibrant community.

On Saturday night we saw the show again. The staging of every production is unique and every actor interprets his/her character differently. It’s why we travel to see productions. Sometimes there’s a bit of business that we want to keep. This time it was a reprise of At Christmas I Believe (an original song in the show written by Laura Ambler) sung by Will’s mother’s ghost. It was a nice touch. It would give a director an option for the character of Alice.

Community theaters across America provide a cultural venue for their communities. Sometimes they serve as the focal point for the revitalization of a small town. And for some, they are a place where people come together — regardless of politics, religion, gender or sexual orientation — to put on a show. And that’s just what the Sugar Creek Players did at the Vanity Theater last weekend. They put on a great show and did us proud.


A Call for Reindeer

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Reindeer are featured in Martha’s Christmas decorating efforts in the new show – A Christmas Wedding – so the Merlin Players sent out a tweet.

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Laura has been doing some rear projection images for the new show. She put a bulletin board on the wall of the community center where much of the action takes place. It’s an homage to sweet potato hot dish recipes, auditions for  the Christmas Carol — the perennial holiday show in our imaginary small-town — and a photo of the playwrites with Merlin Players director Julianna Skluzacek.

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In twenty days we’ll be in Crawfordsville, Indiana watching the opening night performance of The Santa Diaries (the original show) performed by the Sugar Creek Players. Life doesn’t get much better for writers.

Every Production Will Be Different

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Every production of a play is different; perhaps every performance. This is especially true for community theater where parts are cast depending on who shows up to audition. The venue may be a theater, a school or a church basement, and staging is tied to budget, creativity and the ability to think outside the box.

As playwrights, Laura and I are excited to see how Liberty Showcase Theatre will interpret our play, The Santa Diaries. The play will be performed in a church (we think the church hall) and they’ve completed audtions. We will need to make a few tweaks to the script because of who was cast in what role and who can play two parts. The play at the Avalon in Easton, MD had about 65 people – lots of kids and every kid got a speaking part, even if it was just one line. The Liberty Showcase cast is approximately 25, a more manageable number.

Liberty asked us if we would be okay with them changing the look of Marley, the dog in the play, and sent us a picture. Their interpretation of Marley is just fine with us. They want to put its own stamp on The Santa Diaries, and Laura and I hope that every theater that produces our play will do just that.


I’ve asked Barb Gaspar, the show’s director,  to ask the cast to email me bios and photos to share here. I’m looking forward to that. In fact, Laura and I hope to attend a couple of rehearsals and meet the cast. Of course we will attend several preformances. It’s our baby after all, and we are excited to see it grow.