Brand-New Xmas Comedy

How do four writers collaborate on an accessible holiday show? And what happens to the manuscript?


This holiday season Chris was thrilled to appear in the world premiere of a new Christmas comedy for the Shakespeare Project of Chicago.

Christmas Comes But Once a Year by George Zahora is a play about a play. Set both in the near future at a little-known British university and four hundred years ago in a cellar in London, the play depicts a trio of academics trying to open a puzzle box thought to contain the script of a lost play, “Christmas Comes But Once a Year,” a collaboration by four of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. In flashback, we see those playwrights in an Elizabethan writers’ room giving their “staircase pitches” in an attempt to cobble together the first “special Christmas episode.” Although the original play did exist, it almost certainly didn’t take the form created in this play.

A love letter for English lit nerds and Elizabethan drama fans, this Christmas debates what actually makes a Christmas show a Christmas show. Is it themes of redemption and hope (In Bruges)? Or does it just happen to occur at the right time of year (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang)?

Chris originated the role of playwright Thomas Heywood opposite Chloe Baldwin as Thomas Dekker, Joe Bianco as John Webster, and David Skidmore as Henry Chettle. In the literature department, the production featured Savanna Rae as Ms. Windsor, Michelle Shupe as Janet Sims, and Barbara Zahora as Dr. Harriet Jacques.

The premiere was directed by Peter Garino and featured music and sound (and props!) by the author, George Zahora, and played at three Chicago-area libraries.

For the full details, please check out the press release. For more info on the Project, visit

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Chris is slated to appear in January as the title role in Richard III.

Image courtesy Shakespeare Project of Chicago / Peter Garino.