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  • Writer's pictureRenae Perry

Christmas at Town & Gown: A Brief History

Each season since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Town & Gown has presented holiday-themed shows in late November and throughout December.

During our 71st season (2021-2022), we presented Elf the Musical. For Elf, volunteers transformed our lobby into a winter wonderland with Christmas snacks, fun activities for kids, and photos with Santa.

Photo by Tiffiany Peters - (left to right) Quinn Baldwin, Adam Park, Hilary Hunt, Timothy Cole, and Joyce Pool performing in "Elf the Musical" in 2021

In December 2022, during our 72nd season, we presented Little Women, the plot of which includes an in-play Christmas celebration. We also held our first annual New Years Eve Party following the final performance of the On the Edge production of The Reindeer Monologues.

Photo by Nimalka Weerasuriya - (left to right) Olivia "Lou" Shetter, Hilary Hunt, Jill Wheeler, and Dominique Cannon as members of the March family in "Little Women" in 2022

This year, the broader Stillwater community (this author included) is eagerly anticipating Town & Gown’s production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas, starting on December 6th.

(left to right) Timothy Cole, Sydney Weiser, Becki Klauss, and Scott Martin are leading the cast of "White Christmas" at Town & Gown.

We will also see the return of our New Years Eve party, which will be preceded by a musical revue fundraiser at 7:30 pm. Proceeds from the revue will help fund a new show gallery system in the lobby so that we can continue displaying information and photos from past productions.

As commonplace as holiday productions may seem to our newest patrons and participants, presenting shows with applicable themes around the holidays was not standard practice in past seasons. Indeed, Town & Gown didn’t present its first holiday-themed play during the holidays until our 1994 production of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. In the chart below, you can see we’ve increased the number of holiday-themed shows at Town & Gown substantially over the last fourteen years.

While putting on holiday shows during the holidays may not have been “our thing” for our first forty years, Town & Gown did present several holiday-themed shows– we just didn’t do them anywhere near the holidays. For example, in June 2004, Town & Gown legend Joyce Cox directed Meet Me In St. Louis, a stage musical adapted from the 1944 film with the same title. Although not entirely about the holidays, composers Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane (an Oklahoman!) composed the show’s penultimate number, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” for Judy Garland to perform in the film version.

The cast & Crew of "Meet Me In St. Louis" at Town & Gown (as well as the faint reflection of the author of this post holding up her phone camera to glass)

Speaking of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” while our doors were closed in 2020, we presented our virtual Winter Revue, where individuals sang the song (properly socially distanced, of course), and our team edited it into a single rendition as the closing number of the production. The revue also featured many solo and small-group musical numbers, and Town & Gown members telling special stories about their time at the theater. The revue helped us raise money and provided an entertaining gift to our patrons and community during a difficult time.

Whether future seasons include holiday-themed shows depends on submissions from local directors, as well as the considerations made for the entire season by our Play Selection Committee. For more information on submitting shows and directing at Town & Gown, click here.

Regardless of what’s in store for future seasons at Town & Gown, this year we hope you will incorporate White Christmas, our Musical Revue, and our New Years Eve Party into your holiday plans!

Special Thank You to Cindy Sheets for her help with this post

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