Have Beard, Will Travel

By Dwane Starlin, dwanestarlin@aol.com

Fifteen years ago I grew a beard for a role in the play The Andersonville Trial. A casting agent who saw the production suggested I let the beard grow out with the promise of a three-week gig as Santa at The Shops at Georgetown Park. I agreed and fully hirsute played the jolly old elf during the holiday season. Ironically, I was next cast in another show where a full-bearded character was needed.

Unfortunately, that same casting agent then advised me that beards are not always in demand, particularly one that is very salt and pepper: “It makes you look too old for many parts.” So off came the whiskers! The next fall I debated on the return of facial hair when a full Santa outfit was offered to me in lieu of a cash payment on a gig. I accepted and have never looked back. From that time on, I have donned a faux beard and wig to play Santa each winter.

as curly haired and mustachioed Mark twain.

as curly haired and mustachioed Mark twain.

Yes, Burleith, There Is a Santa Claus. Over the years my neighbors have grown used to seeing me leave and return to my Burleith abode dressed as Mark Twain, John Philip Sousa, Scrooge, or, of course, Santa. But I never actually played Mr. Claus in my own backyard. Well, that situation changed in early December this year when BCA board member Linda Brooks asked if I could fill in for a neighborhood event. I was introduced to Rob Russell, the event coordinator and another BCA board member, and the rest is now history.

Through Rob’s efforts and tremendous organization skills, I was given an Excel spreadsheet itinerary and a bag full of candy canes, bibs, and socks. On Saturday, December 12, I made the rounds of Burleith where I provided Christmas merriment, goodies, and photo opportunities for the youngsters and their loved ones. What a rewarding experience I had, popping in and dispensing Yuletide cheer.

As conductor and composer John philip sousa.

As conductor and composer John philip sousa.

For three hours I was rewarded with smiling faces, laughter, and the occasional shedding of tears from an age group that I had somehow missed here in Burleith: children from the ages of 4 months to 9 years. I must say it was a pleasant surprise to discover that there is a new generation of Burleithians out there! And I was treated with an incredible number of Christmas lists, cookies, and photographs along with numerous offers of beverages. For transparency reasons I must disclose that I turned down all drinks and edibles due to costume integrity and cleanliness. This was despite warm, dry, and sunny weather. The balmy temperatures actually provided an excuse to the oft-asked question, “Where’s Rudolph and your sleigh?”

Another surprise was the large number of different languages spoken: French, Spanish, and Czech. I was treated with Joyeux Noel et bonne année, Feliz Navidad y nuevo año, and Veselé Vánoce a šťastný nový rok!

as jolly saint nick with twins Whitney and Sofia.

as jolly saint nick with twins Whitney and Sofia.

Thank you, Burleith, for a grand time! In the immortal words of The Terminator, “I’ll be back.” (If you’ll have me!)

Click here for more photos of Santa's visit.

Rave Review for Santa: “Great job Santa! Cameron was thrilled ... She is a total believer after you 'magically' knew about her cousin in New Jersey and her upcoming part in the school concert! Thank you for making her day!" — Julie Donahue