Snoopy sat on his dog house.

Linus wrapped his blanket around a forlorn stick of a tree.

And Charlie Brown pondered the true meaning of Christmas.

It all took place during a Monday night rehearsal of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at Fremont Opera House.

This year, local actors are staging a production of the beloved Christmas classic at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 and 2 p.m. Dec. 9 in the opera house. No tickets will be sold in advance; admission is $5 at the door.

The colorful production, which features characters from the Charles Schulz cartoon “Peanuts,” is part of a two-day event called, “Our Little Christmas Festival and Open House.”

Local middle and high school students will sing Dec. 9 during the fundraiser, which also features a silent auction of wreaths decorated by local businesses.

On Tuesday morning, schoolchildren sat attentively during a special performance. Three groups of children were scheduled to see the live show designed for kids of all ages.

“We’re going to have so many children come to this show and this may be their first experience with the theater,” said director Lee Meyer on Monday night.

Doyle Schwaninger stars in the title role of Charlie Brown, a kid who’s just trying to figure out what Christmas really is all about.

Schwaninger is embracing the part, while appreciating the show’s various themes.

“I think it shows the true meaning of family — that we all have very different personalities and ways of getting along, but the holidays have a way of bringing everyone together,” Schwaninger said.

The show begins with the well-known opening scene of the Peanuts gang ice skating and the lively beagle Snoopy pulling Linus around by that familiar light blue blanket. Lucy and Linus ponder the difference between December and January snowflakes and Charlie talks about how sad Christmas is for him.

Poor Charlie doesn’t even get a Christmas card.

And he’s not impressed by the holiday’s commercialism which even seems to be impacting his dog-house-decorating pet Snoopy, who’s entered a lucrative contest.

To help Charlie get in the spirit of the season, Lucy turns him into the director of a Christmas play with a cast more interested in dancing than acting.

Cindi Lamprecht plays Lucy, the bossy fussbudget, who sees herself as the Christmas queen. Don Cunningham is Linus, her thoughtful younger brother and Kaleb Jorgensen is the peppy pup Snoopy.

Audiences will see other timeless Peanuts characters including: Charlie’s baby sister Sally, played by Madeleine MacDonald; Jim Campbell as Pig Pen; Nan Cunningham as Peppermint Patty; Kim Mitchell as Frieda, who has naturally curly hair; and Bill Bishop as the piano-playing Schroeder.

Lu Ann Ehmcke serves as the real pianist for the performance, which includes the well-known jazz tunes recognizable by those who’ve watched the holiday show each year. Neil Chromy is the technical director.

Besides the play, opera house guests can take part in other festivities.

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The Christmas festival begins at 7 p.m. Dec. 8 with music by John Huss and Friends, followed by the Charlie Brown play a half hour later.

That Saturday, festivities begin with the sixth grade honor choir performing at 11 a.m. under the direction of MaryBeth Hilbers.

The Yanike Singers perform at 11:45 a.m. with Bob Yanike as director.

Mark Harman will direct the Fremont High School Chorale starting at 12:30 p.m. Jennifer Grenier is directing the Fremont Public Schools Middle School Choir at 1:15 p.m.

The Charlie Brown show starts at 2 p.m. and the Happy Players perform at 3 p.m., at which time the silent auction for wreaths closes.

Guests may come and go as they please for the $5 donation, which allows visitors to see the show, hear the musical groups and have cider and cookies.

Event proceeds will go toward everyday expenses at the opera house.

In the meantime, cast and crew are working to bring Charlie and his friends to life on stage.

What’s one of the best parts?

“The fun we have every night at rehearsal,” Meyer said.

First State Bank and Trust is a sponsor of the event which is receiving generous support from the Nebraska Arts Council.

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News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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