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Play Combines Santa, Aliens To Combat Hunger

Published on 12/12/2004, New London Day

Mystic - Beginning with a recording of the introduction to “The Twilight Zone,” Saturday's play at the Union Baptist Church was no ordinary holiday production.

Santa, Mrs. Claus and elves Micelf and Yurself were joined onstage by shiny aliens, members of the Santa Secret Service trying to protect Santa from abduction, and a host of other odd and witty characters - human, bovine and otherworldly - in “The Gift of the MadGuy.”

Bill Pere, founder and director of the nonprofit Local United Network to Combat Hunger (LUNCH), wrote the play, which was performed by the LUNCH Ensemble. The troupe included more than 30 kids who rehearsed for five weeks. The annual holiday play marked the tenth for the group, whose real aim is not comedy but charity.

Though Connecticut has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, the number of people needing food has more than doubled since last year, Pere said in his introduction to the show.

LUNCH aims to combat hunger by raising funds and awareness, and proceeds from tickets to Saturday's play and preceding holiday music show will benefit more than two dozen social services agencies throughout the state.

The group's holiday play has traditionally parodied pop culture, and Saturday's performance included references to “E.T.,” “Men in Black” and “The Dukes of Hazzard” - the latter in the form of two Dukes of BioHazard, played by Clark Chapman and Parker Verhoeff.

Those who missed the one-time performance can mark next year's calendar for Dec. 3, when the LUNCH Ensemble will perform “A Mall and the Night Visitors,” Pere said - a play wherein the yellow brick road leads to the Emerald City Mall and the Wonderful Wizard of Claus.

The LUNCH ensemble also performs shows throughout the year, including the annual “A Tribute to Harry Chapin” scheduled for April 8,2005 at the University of Hartford.

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