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‘Yes, Virginia’ Is a Family Affair

November 29, 2016

The holiday season brings gatherings, food and time with friends and families. Once again, Oglebay Institute is helping celebrate the season with Towngate Theatre's production of "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," which will take place Dec. 2-4 and 9-11 at the Center Wheeling venue

This production is about family in more ways than one. A family-friendly production featuring an 8-year-old girl as the lead, the play also features in its cast family members from seven separate families.

Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters from the Dodd, Figaretti, Hughes, Jeffers, McFadden, Ross and Zeroski families all are cast members in this production. And for some of these cast members, it's their first play.

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“Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” is a family production in more ways than one. Among the cast are, pictured from left, sisters Reagan Hughes and Campbell Hughes; Pitter Pat Jeffers and her mother, Elizabeth Jeffers; Aleigha Dodd and her father, Charlie Dodd; siblings Deuce Figaretti and Josie Figaretti; siblings Jack McFadden and Clair McFadden; and sisters Kearstin Zeroski and Kara Zeroski. Not pictured are Meghan Ross and her daughter, Arabella.

For example, Meghan Ross is a regular on the Towngate stage, but this is her 7-year-old daughter Arabella's first time performing on stage.

Meghan said that Arabella wanted to audition because theater is part of her life because it is part of Meghan's life.

"Arabella has spent most of her life in or around the theater," Meghan said. "She attends a lot of rehearsals with me when the need arises, and my parents run a community theater in my hometown that she visits frequently. She asks every time they hold auditions if she is old enough yet, and if there are any parts for little girls."

And fortunately for Arabella, "Yes, Virginia" offered that opportunity for her. Meghan said she may be more excited than Arabella is.

"I'm more excited to see her perform than I have ever been to perform myself!" Meghan said. "Of course, being on stage with your own child is definitely a ... trying ... experience. Let's just say, it's been a learning experience for all involved."

Inspired by a simple, heartfelt letter written more than 100 years ago by 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon to the editor of the New York Sun asking about the existence of Santa Claus, and by the timeless editorial response printed on the front page of the newspaper, "Yes, Virginia" is a heartwarming play about how the spirit of Christmas can bring people together.

Every December, Towngate stages a holiday production. The show is different each year but always captures the spirit of the season.

Tim Thompson, Oglebay Institute's director of performing arts, said this year's production of "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" certainly fits the bill.

"It's a classic tale of faith, hope, Christmas magic and the human capacity to believe," he said. "It's perfect for local families looking for a holiday production appropriate for all ages."

On Christmas Eve, 1897, in New York City, Virginia is left pondering whether or not Santa really exists after a series of unhappy events have made her family's Christmas hopes appear bleak. With innocent wisdom, the young girl seeks help from the source most trusted by her father, the irrefutable New York Sun. A down-on-his-luck newspaperman, who is dealing with his own personal struggles, is charged with writing a reply.

His historic response becomes an iconic commentary on the human spirit and the true meaning of Christmas. It has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

Directed by P.D. Gregg, the show features a talented cast of more than 30 Ohio Valley residents.

Over the past six years, attendance at the December family-friendly performances at Towngate has grown.

"The production has become a staple in the Oglebay Institute holiday lineup and a tradition among our patrons," Thompson said. "In fact, for the past two years our holiday shows have sold out."

Evening performances of "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" take place at 8 p.m. Dec. 2, 3, 9 and 10. Matinee performances take place at 3 p.m. Dec. 4 and 11.

Pre- and post-performance receptions will take place in Towngate's lobby, which will be decked for the holidays.

Advanced reservations are recommended. Purchase tickets at, or call 304-242-7700.



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