Marion Art Center to present ‘heartwarming’ and ‘unpredictable’ holiday play

Nov 28, 2023

MARION — What could turn a Christmas play into a holiday play?

By the end of the Marion Art Center’s production of “Miracle on South Division Street,” directors Donn Tyler and Maura Van Voris hope the audience will have an answer to that question.

“Miracle on South Division Street” tells the story of the Nowak’s, a Catholic Polish family living in Pawtucket “that has invested a lot of their belief system in the fact that the Virgin Mary appeared to grandfather in his barbershop … years ago,” said Tyler.

As a result of this miraculous appearance, the Nowak patriarch built a 17-foot-tall statue of the Blessed Mother that quickly became a family heirloom and neighborhood beacon of faith. A family meeting called on Christmas Eve causes the Nowak’s to grapple with their faith — and each other.

“It takes you on a trip where you think you’re going one way and then you go a different way,” said Van Voris.

The play features Kate Martin as family matriarch Clara, Tristan McCann as brother Jimmy, Kate Sorensen-Young as daughter Ruth and Bethany Whitehead as daughter Beverly.

The play was written by Tom Dudzick and was originally set in Buffalo, New York. Directors Tyler and Van Voris gave it a South Coast twist by swapping upstate New York for South Coast New England.

“We had no idea what a Buffalo accent sounded like,” said Van Voris. “We did change it to Pawtucket in Rhode Island and we were really working on that really intense Rhode Island [accent].”

According to Van Voris, the rehearsal process, which started in September, lent itself well to building that accent and building a convincing family dynamic among the cast.

The show’s small rehearsal space at Van Voris’ house “that would be the size of [the character’s] dining room or living room … was very homey,” she said. “The cast feels like very much a family. They look like a family on stage.”

Van Voris added that each cast member has “their own magic and opinions” that led to the show growing dynamically over the rehearsal process.

“It allows for the actor and actress to really enjoy their character and take more command of what they’ve accomplished,” she said. “I really enjoyed working with them in that way.”

In addition to working with the cast, the directors worked closely with sound and lighting technicians Steven McManus and Owen Osterday as well as stage manager Marisa Biever.

“Miracle on South Division Street” is Biever’s first time as stage manager and she has “enjoyed it tremendously.”

“It’s a big learning curve,” she said. “I love people, I love being around people [and] I love diversity of people so being a stage manager and being around all this has been enjoyable.”

And the show’s production team hopes that the audience sees the team’s enjoyment come through in the performance.

“It’s as heartwarming as a Hallmark Christmas movie, just way less predictable,” said Tyler.

See “Miracle on South Division Street” at the Marion Art Center on Dec. 1, 2, 3, 8, 9, 15 and 16. Friday and Saturday shows start at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday matinees start at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 for members and $23 for non-members. For more information, visit