Tis the season for local theaters

Holiday classics and local talent abound this season in regional theaters. The New York State Theater Institute will perform Miracle on 34th Street, while the Schenectady Civic Players and the Classic Theatre Guild of Voorheesville will present "A Christmas Story.

"It was a gift to us," said Patricia DiBennedetto Snyder, producing artistic director of NYSTI of their successful petitioning of Harcourt Brace for the rights to adapt Valentine Davies' book "Miracle on 34th Street." Snyder, Will Severin and John Vreeke adapted the play for the NYSTI stage.

The excitement, anticipation and hope of Christmas through the eyes of a child against the backdrop of parental reserve and admonition are central themes in both of these holiday classics.

"Miracle" opens as the Macy's parade Santa arrives stumbling and inebriated. Retiree Kris Kringle is enlisted on the spot to fill in, and is later hired to work in the store as Santa. His non-commercial holiday spirit first gets him into trouble and then wins him accolades, but always leaves his colleagues annoyed by and skeptical of his insistence on the truth of Santa Claus and a faith that believes in more than common sense.

His practical boss, Doris Walker, is determined that her daughter Susan will not believe in such an irrational myth as Santa Claus. However, Kris' winning ways, strong faith in life's intangibles and clear sense of identity win Susan's heart. A climactic courtroom scene makes the case that Santa is as real as one's belief makes him.

Emma Parsons, a native Londoner, will make her first appearance with NYSTI as Doris Walker, Susan's "realistic" mother. Alison Lehane, an eighth-grader at Maple Avenue Middle School in Saratoga Springs, plays Susan Walker.

"She is so much fun," says Alison of disbelieving Susan. NYSTI's John Romeo plays Kris Kringle; David Baecker plays Fred Gaily. Natalie Carter plays the role of Cleo, housekeeper for Doris and Susan; John McGuire is Mr. Shellhammer and Joel Aroeste is Mr. Gimbel and Judge Harper.

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