For the folks at Gaslight Melodrama, the Christmas season begins Friday with "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." And writer-director Michael Prince tells me he's already tied a ribbon around the six shows they'll present in the coming year.

Before checking out the new season, however, let's take a look at what's happening this weekend at the melodrama.

Prince says the show is a sequel to the 2011 "Holiday Extravaganza" and includes a new face on the Gaslight stage -- namely, Eric Tolley, an actor I usually associate with The Empty Space.

"Yes, this is Eric's first time working at the melodrama, but it is not the first time I've worked with him," Prince said. "He and his wife, Michelle (Guerrero), and I began working together in local theater back in the late '90s."

Yet their acquaintance dates back even earlier.

"I've actually known Michelle since elementary school," Prince said. "We've all been great friends for many years and this is the first time I've worked with Eric in probably 13 years. And he directed me the last time we worked together, so it's been a lot of fun directing him this time around."

Prince also provided an overview of the upcoming show.

"Last year we had Mrs. Claus enlist the help of her friends, The Tooth Fairy, Mrs. Easter Bunny and Mrs. Cupid, to save Christmas," he said. "This year Santa Claus is bringing them back to help restore the spirit of Christmas in the town of Bakersfield."

Heroes of the piece are Santa and his trusted elf Bernard.The villain is an evil department store owner called Cliff Buckstable.

Warren Dobson's vaudeville revue, "Christmas in Bakersfield," follows the main show.

The cast includes Jay Stodder as Santa Claus, along with Matthew Thompson, Shawn Rader, Elisa Robin, Alexandra Hensler, Coryn McBride and Ali Dougherty. Performances continue through Dec. 23.

As for the new season, Prince is the author of every script to be used, which is a first for Gaslight. Normally he writes four of the six shows presented in a year's time.

"I have so many stories I'd like to tell, so I figured, what the heck -- I'm up for the challenge," he said. "Plus, I enjoy writing so much; it's one of my favorite parts of the process."

Here's the lineup for the 2013 season:

Jan. 25-March 16: "The Good, the Bad and the Funny"

March 22-May 6: "Hooray for Hollywood"

May 10-June 29: "Cruisin' Chester, the Musical"

July 26-Sept. 14: "Rosedale (like "Dallas" but funnier, Prince says)

Sept. 27-Nov. 16: "It all Happened at the Kern County Fair"

Nov. 29-Dec. 23: "Gaslight Holiday Extravaganza"

"Last year we had over 300 season pass-holders, and we've already started to sell them for next year," Pierce said. A general admission pass is $117; for seniors over age 60 it's $107; and $71 for children under 12.

Book signing

"Celebrating a Beautiful Life" is Aliza McCracken's latest publication, and she will sign copies of the book at Russo's Books on Saturday.

A nicely formatted, 44-page paperback, it is a pleasing blend of drawings -- mainly angels and butterflies -- and thoughts that express her philosophy of life in simple, uncomplicated prose.

One phrase in particular speaks to me: "The fine arts play a valuable role toward living in peace, joy and abundance." I couldn't agree more.

Now a Bakersfield resident, McCracken was born in Vietnam and came to the United States when she was adopted by an American couple.

Advent recitals begin

Meg Wise, organist at First Presbyterian Church in downtown Bakersfield, has announced the participants in four noon-time programs, beginning on Wednesday.

A 30-year tradition at the downtown Bakersfield church, the Advent Organ Recitals, as they are known, are free and open to the public. The programs correspond with the Advent season, a four-week period preceding Christmas on the Christian calendar.

"Friends of Jim Page," the first recital, is meant to honor Page, who is well-known locally as an organist, pianist and harpist.

"Jim was originally scheduled to do the first recital, but he is unable to do it because of health problems," Wise said. "So, several of his cohorts pitched in to take his place."

Musicians who will be performing are Phil and Jean Dodson on organ and violin; organists Kathie Riebe and Barbara Petker; Liz Cervantes, organ, with Susan Scaffidi, voice, and Mike Raney, trumpet; and pianists Andrea Van Nest and Ryan Ramming.

Subsequent recitals will feature Cervantes and two flutists from Los Angeles on Dec. 5; Wise and Marcia Krause in an organ duet on Dec. 12; and organist Joseph Simms of Tehachapi on Dec. 19.

'Walls of Angels'

Arts Council of Kern has come up with a unique way of increasing its membership and, at the same time, providing a venue for artists.

For its "Walls of Angels" exhibition, the council has sent out a call for artists to create works that reflect the topic of angels.

It's open to all artists who are current members of the Arts Council. So if you want to participate but don't happen to be a member, you can join at the time you submit your entry. Cost is $30 for adults and seniors; $20, college students; and $55 for a family membership.

"We also will give the artist the opportunity of being a 'human angel' by giving a percentage of their commission -- 50 percent of the sales price -- to either the Bakersfield Rescue Mission or the Bakersfield Homeless Center," said Nicole Saint-John, director of visual art programs for the ACK.

Artwork must be delivered to the Younger Gallery, 1430 Truxtun Ave, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday or Wednesday. For specific guidelines, contact Saint-John via email at

Opening reception for "Walls of Angels" is Dec. 6.

Camille Gavin's "Arts Alive" column appears on Thursday. Write to her via email at