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'The Homecoming' to open next week

The Spencer children portrayed by (back row, from left) Maggie Breuer, Darien Bottila, Savannah Lyytinen, (center from left) Elizabeth Strickland, Sean Biskey, Daniel Jokinen, (front from left) Dakotah Anderson and Sam Strukel gather to crack walnuts for their mother's special Christmas cake in the County Seat Theater Company production of "The Homecoming," opening next Friday at the Encore! Performing Arts Center and Gallery.1 / 2
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It's Christmas Eve on Spencer's Mountain in Virginia. The year is 1933, during the Great Depression. "Snow's a comin' for sure" and the father of the family, Clay Spencer, has not arrived home from his work in Waynesboro. That's the premise for new County Seat Theater Company's holiday offering "The Homecoming." The play opens Dec. 3 at the Encore! Performing Arts Center and Gallery in Cloquet.

The large cast of 24 talented actors includes a mixture of newcomers and veterans from the Carlton County and Duluth area. The Spencer family has eight children (last time they counted), the youngest is eight years old (played by Elizabeth Strickland).

The script is filled with many lively and colorful characters including the "two old lady bootleggers" (Corey Fischer and Adrienne Strickland) as Olivia Spencer (Annette Gannucci) describes them. There's Reverend Dooly from the Baptist Church (Mike Fails) and Charlie Sneed (Kirk Davis) who hunts out of season to keep the neighbors fed in hard times. Clay Boy, the oldest Spencer son, (Sean Biskey) secretly longs to become a writer, and these are the people he writes about.

If the characters sound familiar, you could be recalling the popular TV show "The Waltons" or the beloved Christmas movie "The Homecoming" starring Richard Thomas and Patricia Neal. The play produced by the County Seat Theater Company is based on the beautiful original novel, "The Homecoming," by Earl Hamner Jr.

The Homecoming runs Dec. 3-5 and again Dec. 9-12. Tickets are selling quickly, so reservations as recommended by calling the CST Box Office at 218-878-0071 or going online at Tickets are $15, student/children are $13.

During the run of the show, the Encore Gallery will feature a special art display by local artists titled "Family." The display opens with a reception from 5-7 p.m. Dec. 1. "The Homecoming" is made possible by the generous support of Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet.