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A new read on the Christmas spirit

Novels, poems and short stories take center stage for the holidays

Dec 24,2008
Tracy Boulter, left, and Mike Flanigan are actors in “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which will be performed tonight at The Orange Tree in Haebangchon. Provided by the organizer
Mike Flanigan’s most memorable Christmas came in 1991. His mom thrilled the then 11-year-old boy with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II, a very popular Nintendo video game at the time. But as excited as he was about the present, for Flanigan, the most memorable thing about the holiday was a sense of unity and coziness among family members, he said.

“Everyone would just be hanging around in their pajamas, randomly snacking, watching movies, playing with their presents,” Flanigan, a Canadian English teacher in Seoul, recalled in a recent interview.

His mom added to the Christmas spirit by reading holiday stories to him and his siblings, he said. He remembers hearing “A Christmas Carol,” the story of Scrooge, on the days leading up to Christmas, and being amazed at the sense of warmness and oneness hearing the story created among family members.

That magical feature of reading is the concept behind a one-time Christmas show that Flanigan is putting on stage tonight. “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” a collection of Christmas readings from novels, poems and short stories, will be performed at 8 p.m. at The Orange Tree, a bar in Haebangchon, near Itaewon, Seoul.

The production is supported by Seoul Players, an expat theater group in Seoul.

“I think, in general, people don’t read to each other past a certain age, which is a shame because the act of reading to someone and the experience of being read to is something quite special,” Flanigan said. “This show is my way passing that on to others.”

Flanigan, who came to Korea three years ago, is not actually a member of Seoul Players, but he approached the group this summer and suggested the idea. Seoul Players, open to creative and experimental theater, agreed to work together for the project. Flanigan said he directed a similar show at the University of King’s College in Canada, where he studied English literature.

During the show, the cast ? Flanigan and five other actors ? will read works including Christmas classics like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and the Christmas story from the Gospel of Luke. Modern literature such as David Sedaris’s “Santaland Diaries” will also be featured.

He said having people read on stage allows the substance of the story to come across to listeners. The effect of feeling Christmas togetherness results as well, he said. “Christmas is a time for gathering together and spending time with friends and family,” he said. “Hopefully, this show will be a time of gathering and friendship, in keeping with the spirit of Christmas.”

Proceeds from the tickets, priced at 10,000 won ($7.50), will be delivered tomorrow on Christmas Day to the Bethlehem Children’s Centre, a child care center in northern Seoul, the organizers said.

“I think it’s a wonderful way to feel a part of the community and to help children in Seoul, who are not so fortunate,” said Stephanie Glover, one of the organizers. “I believe that the children will get positive reinforcement knowing that someone out there was thinking about them on Christmas Day. After all, that is what the Christmas spirit is all about.”

The organizers are encouraging the audience to bring pre-wrapped gifts for the children at the center.


By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [joe@joongang.co.kr]





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