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Hawthorne, Twain, Henry and More Featured in East Lynne Theater's YULETIDE TALES

Typical this time of year, East Lynne Theater Company's artistic director Gayle Stahlhuth, after plowing through dozens of stories, selects a few to present for the holidays in storytelling fashion. This means that everything is memorized and at least 30 different characters are interpreted, many with simple gestures like the flick of a wrist, a nod of the head, and/or a change in the dialect.

This year, the American writers she's selected are Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864), Edward Everett Hale (1822-1909), Mark Twain (1835-1910), and O. Henry (1862-1910), under the title "Yuletide Tales."

Hale, who also served as the Chaplain of the United States Senate, is best known as the author of "The Man without a Country." His "9 Linwood Street" is about Nora, a young Irish girl who arrived in Boston in December 1895. Her boat arrived three hours earlier than expected, so her brother isn't there to greet her. With the help of many, including a Salvation Army lass, a Swedish matron, police officers, the milkman, and dozens of postal workers, she eventually arrives at this unique address on Christmas Eve.

In "Susie's Letter from Santa Clause," Twain, as Santa, explains to his daughter that the last Kitchen-furniture for Dolls was given to a child in the North Star, and she should be happy for her. Susie will still get the trunk filled with doll clothes, but must talk to Santa first through the household speaking tube. The plans to deliver this trunk are whimsically elaborate and Susie was surely pleased by Santa's attention.

Many of Hawthorne's works question people's motives through his eerie, somewhat supernatural style of writing. His exquisitely written "Snow Image" is no exception. Did Violet and Sam create a real child out of snow, or was it just their imagination? But the real question becomes, did their father have the right to question their imagination?

O. Henry provided his usual "twist" at the end of "The Gift of the Magi," proving that the love between Della and James is stronger than the gifts they gave each other. O. Henry writes that the Magi were wise men who created gift-giving at Christmas time, but these two were also wise in how they gave and received their special gifts.

Stahlhuth has written and performed a variety of one-person shows since her first one, "Lou: The Remarkable Miss Alcott" in 1981. Others include "Eve's Diary" based on several works by Mark Twain and "The Awakening" based on Kate Chopin's novel. She's performed these at The Smithsonian Institution and other major museums, Manhattan Theater Club and other theaters, as well as on the Chautauqua circuit. Not only has she been praised by patrons and reviewers alike for her solo work, but when she performed her adaptation of L. Frank Baum's "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus," it was designated an "American Masterpiece," part of the National Endowment for the Arts' Masterpieces Series, acknowledging those who introduce Americans to "the best of their cultural and artistic legacy." From 2008-2010, one ELTC production yearly had received this national honor. (Due to lack of funds, the final year of the Series was 2010.)

"Yuletide Tales" are presented on November 25, 26, December 4, 8, 9, and 10 at 8:00 with a 2:00 show also on December 10, at The First Presbyterian Church of Cape May, 500 Hughes St. Tickets: $27; $17 for students/military; and ages 12 and under are free. For reservations, call 884-5898, e-mail, or visit Season tickets for 2017 cost only $88 and are already selling.

Mainstage productions and educational outreach would not be possible without season sponsors Curran Investment Management, Aleathea's Restaurant, The Henry Sawyer Inn and The Washington Inn; The NJ Dept. of State, Division of Travel & Tourism; NJ State Council on the Arts/Dept. of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts; and the generosity of many patrons.

Pictured: Gayle Stahlhuth, storyteller, in East Lynne Theater Company's "Yuletide Tales." Photo by Lee O'Connor.

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