Dec 8, 2009

Gifts of the Magi

by Claire Riss

Legend has it that Sydney William Porter, or O. Henry as he is better known, wrote “The Gifts of the Magi” in only four hours. Though it took just four hours to write, “The Gifts of the Magi” has been engraved in history as one of the best loved Christmas stories for over 100 years.

Liberty’s Department of Theatre Arts teamed up with the Salvation Army this Christmas season to present “The Gifts of the Magi” Dec. 4-6. The play, produced by the Transformation Theatre Company and directed by adjunct professor Lori Provost, is free to students and the public, but is collecting donations for the Salvation Army. A red kettle is available for donations when viewers enter the theater.

The story revolves around Jim and Della Young, a poor couple determined to give gifts to each other for the holiday season, though they have no means. While Jim and Della are the main players, Henry narrates and appears in almost every scene. The play is an account of how Henry wrote “The Gifts of the Magi” and the characters are actors in the play of Henry’s mind, so to speak. They respond to Henry as he writes his story. On several occasions, Henry edits his story and the characters modify their actions to fit his rewrite accordingly.

Characteristic of most of Henry’s tales, the story has a surprise ending. The “one act” play, adapted by Anne Coulter Martens, runs about 30 minutes and is accompanied by a pre-show of Christmas carols.

Provost and her husband Larry Provost, the director of commuter affairs, sponsor the Transformation Theater Club. She said the cast of the play learned their own lessons on frugality.

“Instead of purchasing aged newspapers, one of our students learned how to create the look and texture (using) tea bags,” Lori Provost said.

Provost said the Theatre Arts Department chose to perform “The Gifts of the Magi” in time for the giving season, developing the idea by partnering with the Salvation Army. She said the show gave the student actors lessons on putting their faith into action in their finances.

“Many of these students will walk into a church after graduation with a very minimal budget. Therefore, the students are trained to explore creative means of acquiring resources,” Provost said.
Provost hopes that the theme of the story will stir viewers to give with big hearts this Christmas.

“Christ, the Magi, Della and Jim have one thing in common: their gifts were sacrificial. I hope that when audiences come to see this production, they too will be inspired to … give sacrificially this year to show love to others,” Provost said.

The Magi, wise men who gave Jesus gold, frankincense and myrrh in honor of his birth and kingship are remembered for their giving.

“They invented the art of giving Christmas presents,” Henry writes.
With a season so abundant in giving, those who view “Magi” will remember the original purpose of Christmas giving — to honor a King.

Contact Claire Riss at

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