By Kaylee Lindenmuth
SHENANDOAH - An annual Christmas kickoff event, sponsored by Downtown Shenandoah, Inc., was held Friday evening, though this year's event debuted a new, original play by a Shenandoah native.
"You're Gonna Get Coal for Christmas," written by Dane Rooney, featured 25 Shenandoah Valley students this year. In years past, renditions of The Grinch and A Christmas Carol were performed.
This year's play followed a supposed delinquent child and a star student along a mystical tale as they traveled to the North Pole alongside a ghost miner, a Molly Maguire, who mines the coal naughty-list children receive for Christmas.
The story also intertwines various ethnic based Christmas beliefs, including depictions of Irish and Italian grandmothers outlining their own.
Friday was the debut of the tale, written by native Dane Rooney.
"The idea came up in the summer, I always wanted to do something around coal and then I had this idea to bring in a Latin influence as well, and then I started developing it," said Rooney. "I researched where the myth of getting coal (for Christmas) actually comes from and it goes back to this Italian myth with La Befana, so I just went off of that, and I connected her to Mrs. Claus to make it my own and original."
The lead, Jesusa, portrayed by Valentina Rodriguez, is told early on in the story she'll receive coal for Christmas, intertwining Spanish and English as she interacts with "The Kid", portrayed by Sean James.
The story progresses, as they learn of the myth of La Befana, and encounter a ghostly coal miner, portrayed by Jesse Carl. Soon, they find themselves in the North Pole, as they seek to remove Jesusa from her naughty list.
Speaking of the debut, Rooney said "the production was great."
"This is exactly what I wanted, because I've never even heard it out loud," added Rooney. "Typically, before you actually give your play to a production, there is some sort of reading, so this was great to have a stage reading version, where they have their scripts in their hands and now I even have ideas to define it even better for next year."
Speaking of participating in the play, Carl said "I thought the experience was pretty cool."
"We're doing something for the community, and we're making some children happy. That's what we strive to do here, make the community a happier place during Christmas time," added Carl.
Following the play, hot chocolate and cookies were served, and carriage rides through downtown Shenandoah were provided as well.
Jesusa: Valentina Rodriguez
The Kid: Sean James
Italian Grandmother: Danilyn Migliaccio
Irish Grandmother: Abby Conroy
The Miner: Sean James
Jesusa's Papa: Johnny Chinchay
Jesusa's Mama: Nazareth Paniagua
Translator: Genesis Nunez
Texan Lawyer: Brandon Breznik
Snowmama: Jacqueline Bubnis
Snowman: Osbaldo Pagan
Snowchild #1: Annemarie Miller
Snowchild #2: Gemma Joseph
Snowchild #3: Gabrielle Canavan
La Befana: Rebecca Adorno
Santa Claus: Edward Needham
Elves: Rosalyna Lugo, Denise Lutz, Arlene Kaminsky, Angel Kilkenny, Jennifer Selbi, Andi Velzquez
The Passerby: Kaitlyn Carduff
Police Officer: Mark Honus
Vice Principal Dickens: Alexis Saldukas