Charlie Brown and friends coming to Circle Theatre

  • The cast of Circle Theatre’s production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”: (front row, from left) Chloe Towne (Violet), Emma Creech (Sally Brown), Colyn Morris (Snoopy), Britney Taylor (Patty), and Holly Thomas (Frieda); (back row) Kayla Hutto (Lucy van Pelt), Chance Brabham (Linus van Pelt), Christopher Morris (Charlie Brown), Matthew Washington (Shermy), Jackson Self (Schroeder), and Caleb Bozard (Pig Pen).

Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang kick off Circle Theatre’s 2017-2018 season with a message about the real meaning of Christmas.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” opens Friday, Dec. 8 at 7 p.m. at Circle Theatre (325 Academy Street, Barnwell) and will be performed eight times over two weekends.

“This Christmas story stands the test of time. It is a classic and will never go out of style. Our culture is material-driven and tends to forget to slow down and remember what this season is truly all about. This story makes you realize it and puts it right in front of you in a way that any person of any age can understand,” said director Michael Pisacreta, who is assisted by producers Beth Miller and Nancy Knopf.

Pisacreta is a long-time fan of Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comics that made Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang household names that have lasted generations.

The play revolves around Charlie Brown who is unhappy with the overwhelming materialism he sees among people during the Christmas season. He is also lonely and feeling unloved by his friends during what is supposed to be a happy time of year. However, directing the school’s Christmas pageant will show Charlie Brown that he is not alone while helping everyone understand that Christmas is more than presents and material things.

“Peanuts characters are all of us. Each character embodies one aspect or another of someone we all know and love. That is what makes the comics and the stories so well loved by so many people,” said Pisacreta.

That’s been true for some members of the cast as well as they see a piece of their real lives in the characters they play.

“I basically play myself but with a blanket,” said Chance Brabham, who plays Linus.

Although she is not like her character, Kayla Hutto said it is fun playing Lucy where she can be “a little bit rude and sarcastic without having to feel completely bad about it.” She has enjoyed the process of developing her character and taking directions on how to improve.

Christopher Morris portrays Charlie Brown who he describes as “kind of goofy and awkward.” His brother Colyn is Snoopy. The brothers originally pictured themselves playing the other character, but are happy to be who they were selected to bring to life on the stage.

Colyn Morris said Charlie Brown is feeling put down when he comes across a “weak and pathetic” Christmas tree. He is drawn to it because he feels the same way and thinks the tree needs a home. Though his friends make fun of the tree at first, they eventually realize Christmas is not about having a fancy tree. They come together in unity.

“What comes out is beauty,” said Colyn, who believes this is a good reminder about coming together as a community.

Just as the 11 characters in the play, the young actors have also found a sense of community on and offstage, said Christopher Morris. “This is a wonderful opportunity to get to share the spirit of Christmas.”

“It’s a welcoming place. They are always here to help you improve,” said Brabham, who has enjoyed the experience of his first regular season play, although he’s been in the theatre’s youth summer camp.

Pisacreta also commends his cast for their unity and being open to constructive criticism as they’ve learned lines, songs and stage directions over the past few weeks.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a family-friendly play, so all ages are welcome to attend. Performances of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” are Dec. 8 and 15 at 7 p.m., Dec. 9 and 16 at 5 and 7 p.m., with matinees on Dec. 10 and 17 at 3 p.m.

“I hope they go away with a feeling of nostalgia, in some cases, for having seen an old familiar Peanuts special brought to life on the stage. I also hope audience members walk away with a sense of what this season is all about and that material things are not what truly matters,” said Pisacreta.

Tickets are $12 if bought in advance at Evelyn’s on the Circle in downtown Barnwell or at ctcbc.brownpapertickets.com. They will be $15 at the door if seats are available. Season tickets are also available, which include admission to all three regular season plays.