by Rita Charleston
“Rosie the Reindeer and the Case of the Stolen Snow Globe” is Act II’s holiday presentation, now being staged at the Ambler playhouse through Dec. 30. Written by Act II’s Communications and Education Director, Bill D’Agostino, this world premiere centers on a magical snow globe that was stolen from Santa’s sleigh. And now Mrs. Santa needs Rosie — along with the help of Rosie’s new friends (the audience) — to crack the case.
D’Agostino, who previously penned the hit “Murray the Elf” mysteries for Act II, says that just like that other series, “This is a silly but heartwarming mystery, full of colorful characters and loads of fun.” Will Dennis, who played Murray in the previous mysteries but is now directing this new production, agrees. “I’m so excited to revisit Toyland, this time from the other side of the boards, and help bring Rosie to life.
“Rosie is a young reindeer who grew up sort of idolizing what we would call ‘the sleigh-pulling reindeers.’ But through Rosie’s encounters with Mrs. Claus and Mrs. Claus’ faith in her, Rosie comes to understand her own strengths and purpose and that the other reindeers might be the most glamorous, but there is certainly value in all the reindeers. So she becomes a detective reindeer and comes to know herself best through solving a mystery.”
Dennis came to know himself best through his many life paths. A theater aficionado who was brought up in Huntingdon Valley, Dennis attended St. Joseph’s Prep School, and through the urging of a friend, auditioned and was cast in the ensemble in “Damn Yankees.” That encouraged him to keep going, although by the time he got to the University of Scranton he decided to major in theology. “I instinctively wanted to study theology, and at Scranton you didn’t have to major in theater to be involved with it and be part of the process. You could be involved in the shows and still be studying something else.”
And that’s exactly what happened. “The theater is something I always wanted to do, but I also loved reading, writing and thinking for myself, and theology was sort of a combination of all of that. I also minored in philosophy. I was always drawn to the idea of how to think critically rather than study specific content.”
And today, Dennis, 35, who lives in Langhorne, seems to have managed to combine it all. “By day I teach theology at Villa Joseph Marie, and by night, my wife Danielle and I own and operate UnScripted Productions, an improvisation studio in Newtown.” Older audiences may remember Dennis, a card-carrying member of Actors’ Equity, from his roles in “Erectile Dysfunction,” “Fox on the Fairway,” “Making Spirits Bright” and other productions. He last acted in “Murray” but hopes it won’t be too long before he’s back at it. But for now, he’s happily directing this show.
“As far as directing, I think my strength lies in my intimate knowledge of what it’s like to be an actor,” Dennis insists. “I’m sure I have my weaknesses, but my strength is knowing what it’s like on the other side.” But whatever he does, he says it all has to have some component of education. “The greatest joy of my life is being able to walk with young people as they figure out what it’s like to be who they were meant to be. And whether that means teaching improv or theology, performing or directing, that’s all part of me. And I don’t care what direction I take on any given day. As long as I’m able to experience love through education, I’ll be fine.”
For ticket information, call the box office at 215-654-0200.