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Syracuse writers' group returns to the WAER airwaves for second season of theatrical merriment

An antique microphone surrounded by holiday lights, a Christmas tree in the back ground, and a candle in a snowman holder in front of a red festive background
Kat Kollins/ WAER News
Armory Square Playwrights collaborate for a second year with WAER on holiday radio show.

During this season of cherished traditions and heartfelt connections, emotions take center stage. Welcome to a very special presentation from WAER, Syracuse Public Media: Holiday Theater from Studio C and the Armory Square Playwrights.

In this second year of production partnership, four plays resonating with holiday spirit were recorded at the WAER studios. These stories, filled with humor and touching moments, were meticulously crafted by local playwrights and passionately performed by talented actors, many of them playwrights in the group.

After the actors voiced the scripts, WAER staff went to work crafting the plays with appropriate sounds and music. Ben Sills, Kat Kollins, and Chris Bolt were the production crew.

The plays touch on festive chaos, love, friendship, and unlikely connections

The plays selected were:

  • Twas the Christmas Eve 9:02 to Soulmateville by Donna Stuccio
  • Singing in the Snow by Rachel May
  • Settling Christmas! by Peter Moller
  • Moving In Day by Valarie Short

Holiday Theater from Studio C and the Armory Square Playwrights is a production of WAER Syracuse Public Media. Thanks to Peter Moller, Rachel May, Donna Stuccio and Valarie Short for writing the plays and to all the members of the group, as well as other actors, who helped perform them. Further thanks to the production crew behind the scenes: Ben Sills, Chris Bolt and Kat Kollins.

Twas the Christmas Eve 9:02 to Soulmateville is a whimsical and heartwarming tale set on a train journey. Andrew, a hopeful romantic, crosses paths with Charlotte, who's disoriented and claims to be in a relationship despite appearing alone. Their amusing and poignant conversation reveals Charlotte's confusion about her status and Andrew's persistent optimism. As they share their stories and experiences, Charlotte discovers she's been riding solo for an extended period, missing multiple stops where her relationship supposedly ended.

Meanwhile, Andrew tries to connect with her, offering hope and surprising her with a magical box that creates snow, fulfilling his promise of a snowy Christmas Eve. The play concludes with Andrew and Charlotte sharing a kiss, defying the odds and surprising the train conductor, the Porter. The announcement of the next stop, Soulmateville, symbolizes the potential for a fresh start and a budding romance between Andrew and Charlotte. Themes of hope, second chances, and unexpected twists in the pursuit of love resonate throughout the play.

The Porter played by Tom Minion

Andrew played by Brendon Cole

Charlotte played by Donna Stuccio

Singing in the Snow captures a chance encounter between Jane Case, daughter of the inventor of talking pictures, and Donald O'Connor, a Hollywood star, following the premiere of "Singing in the Rain." Initially skeptical of movies, Jane's encounter with Donald O'Connor leads to a playful and insightful conversation about the inaccuracies in the film regarding the birth of talking pictures.

As they banter about the film's portrayal of history and the movie industry, they find common ground, and O'Connor's charm begins to soften Jane's stance on movies. Their conversation sparks ideas for a heartwarming Christmas story set in Auburn, where Jane's father made the first recording, culminating in a whimsical and unexpected invitation for O'Connor to celebrate the anniversary in the snowy town. The play ends with a nod to history and a reminder that while inspired by real events, it's ultimately a delightful musical comedy.

Narrator played by Tim Mahar

Marge played by Coco Marcil

Jane Case played by Lucy Purnine

Donald O’Connor played by Eric van der Vort

Settling Christmas is a comedic play set in a restaurant where friends gather to celebrate Mary's birthday, which falls on Christmas. The group, consisting of Virginia, Linda, Frank, Bill, and the birthday celebrant Mary, engages in a humorous debate about how to settle the bill after their meal. As they attempt to figure out how to divide the bill among themselves, the conversation becomes a comedic tangle of opinions, including debates over the tax, the tip, who consumed what, and even the authenticity of Mary's birthday being on Christmas.

Virginia tries to lead the group in settling the bill, but their conversations constantly veer off course, covering topics such as taxation, societal norms, and even credit card use. Meanwhile, Mary returns from the restroom and surprises everyone by revealing a surprise for her own birthday and Christmas. Despite the confusion and differing opinions about how to handle the bill, Mary's kind gesture unifies the group, and they eventually toast to the idea of celebrating together again in the future. The play humorously showcases the complexities and absurdities that can arise when trying to split a bill among friends during a festive occasion.

Mary played by Donna O’Mahoney

Virginia played by Anne Fitzgerald

Linda played by Alexis Martin

Frank played by Len Fonte

Bill played by J.P. Crangle

Moving In Day is a poignant and sometimes humorous play set in a nursing home patient room. The play unfolds during the holidays as Samuel, a 91-year-old white man, moves into the nursing home and interacts with his new roommate, Daniel, an 89-year-old black man. As they get acquainted, tensions arise between Samuel and Daniel, revealing their differing backgrounds and racial prejudices. The dialogue explores their contrasting perspectives on life, race, and the challenges of growing old.

They share their life stories, discussing family, accomplishments, and disappointments. Despite their differences, they bond over shared experiences and cultural references, like their love for baseball. The play touches on themes of aging, racial discrimination, family dynamics, and the struggles of adapting to life in a nursing home. The characters find common ground despite initial conflicts, uniting over a game of checkers as snowfall outside the window marks a moment of connection amid their shared challenges.

Narrator and Mary played by Joanne Gustus

Camila played by Valarie Short

Daniel played by Dwan Hameed

Samuel played by Peter Moller

Armory Square Playwrights

For over three decades, the Armory Square Playwrights have woven a tapestry of creativity. President Len Fonte shares that this group, a family of writers, nurtures each other's craft, seeking not just feedback, but a receptive audience. Donna Stuccio, a passionate playwright within the group, echoes the sentiment, expressing her love for the theatrical process. Their dedication, shared stories, and unwavering support paint a canvas of excitement and creativity.

Kat is a seasoned anchor/producer at WAER in Syracuse, NY, delivering local news content and hosting NPR's "All Things Considered." With a diverse career including roles in traffic reporting, law enforcement, and media instruction, Kat's adaptability stems from her military upbringing. Beyond her media career, she and her husband manage a small farm in Oswego County, reflecting her rich background and lifelong learning mentality, making her a valuable asset at Syracuse University.