‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’ retells a classic tale, with puppets

'A Child's Christmas in Wales' runs Dec. 5 through Jan. 5 at St. Stephen's Theater. Find out if the puppets talk in “A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” at St. Stephen’s Theater.
Credit: Kate Raines

Puppeteer Sebastienne Mundheim has always had a tough time closing up her studio for the day.

“You get so involved in it, you start to think they’re real. When I was working on the little boy for this show — and I know this is a little weird — I felt like I didn’t want to leave him by himself for the night, especially if I hadn’t put pants on him yet.“

For more than 20 years, Mundheim has been sharing her intimately crafted, imaginative world with Philadelphia audiences, specializing in child-accessible twists on the works and lives of great authors, from James Joyce to Henri Rousseau.

Her latest is an adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ autobiographical short story, “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” The piece mixes actors and puppets in Mundheim’s immersive early 20th-century Welsh village.

“[Thomas’ writing] is so wonderful to hear without looking at anything, because you can imagine anything you want,” says Mundheim. “And, the thing about my work, I find, is that it’s great to look at it without hearing anything because you imagine the story. So it’s been really cool to think about how to put the two together and allow for the experiences to support each other.”

One sticking point in the process has been figuring out how and when the Thomas puppet should say his lines. Typically, Mundheim’s work doesn’t include dialogue; it’s a visual experience.

“I just don’t like it when puppets talk!” she says with a laugh. “I love the mystery of watching things happen without talking. Like, when you look at this little boy puppet’s face, you will feel emotional towards him. You can’t help it. If some actor made him talk, it would kill it.”

‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’
Lantern Theater Company
St. Stephen’s Theater
10th and Ludlow streets
Dec. 5–Jan. 5
$20–$38, 215-829-0395

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