Steve Brown has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders at Christmastime. He's watched closely by parents and children alike. You could call him a character actor, of sorts, who's sometimes mistaken for one of his most iconic roles.
Brown takes the stage this year in DreamWrights' performance of "Miracle on 34th Street" for his third run as Kris Kringle, or Santa Claus as the cast of children call him. The Saint Nick veteran was first handed the role for DreamWrights 15 years ago, and has donned the padded suit and fluffy beard for more than a dozen breakfasts with Santa for the theatre.
"Miracle on 34th Street" will have its final performances of the season at 6:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and a playlet and breakfast at 9 a.m. Sunday at DreamWrights Theatre, 100 Carlisle Ave., York. Tickets for the shows have sold out.
Brown's resemblance to the guy in the red suit and his "jolly" demeanor are so prevalent when he slips into the role - and, he says, sometimes when he's on the street - that children watch him in awe. He tells the story, one of his funniest, he asserts, of one mother and son he encountered when on the subway one year.
"This woman, she just walked right up to me and hugged me," he says. "Her son had told her he didn't believe in Santa anymore, and when he saw me he was just struck in disbelief. He said he believed again and she was just so happy, she hugged me right there," he adds, chuckling.
Making the performance all the more special for Brown is the inclusion of his grandson, Christopher. Brown says one of his favorite parts of performing with DreamWrights is getting involved together with family members.
Diane Crews, artistic director of the show and one of the founding members of DreamWrights, says that family is one of the distinguishing characteristics of DreamWrights' performances.
"We cast multi-generationally," Crews says. "Parents get involved with their children, and those children grow up and we see them come back with their children - it's amazing to see this big family grow together."
The annual Christmas show is one of the largest for the non-profit organization. Crews says the theatre serves as a teaching organization for local performers. She says DreamWrights double-casts to try to give as many people as possible the chance to perform with the theatre.
"We like to give as many people as we can that opportunity," she says. "Obviously, we can't do that for everyone, but we want as many people as possible to be able to succeed."
Next year, Crews says DreamWrights will be performing "The Homecoming," and searching for a cast and crew for the holiday play. In addition to Christmas show, the theatre's season will include "Alice in Wonderland," "The Hobbit" and "Doctor Dolittle."
"It's a lot of fun for everyone who gets involved," Crews says. "This is for all people."
Remaining performances of "Miracle on 34th Street" have sold out. To audition for a show, or to purchase tickets for upcoming shows, visit www.dreamwrights.org or call 717-848-8623 for more information.