Most of us are well-acquainted with the traditional tales of St. Nick, but The Empty Space has a fresh take on the jolly old elf with the upcoming "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus."
Director Jeremiah Heitman adapted the new audio play from the book by L. Frank Baum. Much like in his best-known work, "The Wizard of Oz," Baum brings magic and adventure to the tale of a young Santa Claus.
"I’m a huge fantasy fan, and I loved the way Baum intertwined the magical elements into his narrative to tell the story of such an iconic character," Heitman wrote in an email. "The show doesn’t focus on the Santa Claus we know, it tells the tale of his youth."
As a baby, Claus (voiced by Nick Ono) is found in the Forest of Burzee by the immortal woodsman Ak (Ryan Vaughn). He is first cared for by lioness Shiegra (Jacquie Thompson-Mercer) and eventually adopted by the wood nymph Necile (Amy Hall).
Heitman said he expanded on some of the fantasy elements in this epic origin adventure and introduced new characters to further develop Santa Claus' origin story. The play also features the inhabitants of the magical forest of Burzee, including Sprites (Heitman, Cody Schofield and Brian Purcell), Fairies (Maya Blackstone, Missy Lonsinger, Eunice Hartsock and Deva Wiloth), Flower Sisters (Julie Gaines, Tania Bandes Becerra Weingarden and Michelle Weingarden Bandes) and more.
Presenting the show as an audio play allowed everyone to work safely together while actually recording individually. The director credits his wonderful sound designer, Alex Mitts, with his diligent work combining lines to create the scenes.
"I think the material works well as an audio play because it let’s the audience create this magical world in their own mind," said Heitman, who noted that a huge budget would be necessary to make this show full of mystical creatures, battle scenes and talking animals work as a staged production.
These "Adventures" are so epic that they can't be contained to one segment. The first, which will be available starting Friday, focuses on Claus' time with immortals in Burzee and discovering his purpose of helping the children of the world.
The remaining four parts will be released through the rest of the month, each building on the story with Claus building a home in the mortal world and meeting his great enemies, the Gorpoks (part 2); discovering his gift for making toys and the joy they can bring to the world (part 3); how the wicked Gorpoks try to prevent Claus from helping children (part 4); and the great battle between good and evil (part 5).
Heitman said he's looking forward to releasing the audio play for audiences.
"I hope they’re entertained. I also hope after listening to our production that people will read the source material and seek out new holiday stories that they might not have previously known about."
Part 1 of "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" will be available starting Friday. Tickets ($10), which are good for all five parts, can be purchased at esonline.org. Subsequent segments will be released through the rest of the month, with paid listeners being notified via email.