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A story of family, love and growth

Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

“The Long Christmas Ride Home” isn’t a play about the Christian holiday. Rather, it tells a story about how a few events can affect someone’s entire life, for good and ill.

“Paula Vogel, the playwright, would rather the play not be performed any month near Christmas,” said director Nancy Kindelan, an associate professor of theatre in the College of Arts, Media and Design. “It deals with issues we associate with Christmas — such as love and family — which really should not be confined to the 25th of December.”

The play tells a Western story through an Eastern lens, relying on techniques from Japanese Noh and Bunraku theatre to propel the narrative. College-age actors play both young- and middle-aged adults and custom-made puppets portray several characters.

“A big difference of performing through a puppet is that everything I would normally convey with my entire body I have to convey through a three-foot-tall puppet version of myself,” said freshman theatre major John Crittenden.

The story, which focuses in part on a family on the verge of collapse, examines how traditions can evolve and change. Its plot is based on the memories of a character named Stephen, who resembles Vogel’s real-life brother.

“It’s a play about change,” said third-year theatre major Danny Belford. “All the kids change, but the parents stay the same. It’s about how they grow into themselves and how their relationships with their family shape who they are later in life.”

A live soundtrack composed by music technology senior Joanna Iwanowicz accompanies the performance. The music, she said, mixes sounds from a variety of eras and cultures.

“I tried to merge all of these sounds together,” said, Iwanowicz, whose gear includes an electronic keyboard and traditional Asian instruments. “If the play calls for rock music, for example, I’ve come up with something that tries to be rock music in a Japanese style.”

“The Long Christmas Ride Home” runs from Tuesday through Sunday. Performances from Tuesday through Saturday will begin at 8 p.m. Sunday’s performance begins at 2 p.m. The play is appropriate for mature audiences only. Seating is limited and advance tickets are available for purchase online at neu.universitytickets.com.