|Mark Perry makes a delivery in his role as Postman Mark.|
Franklin truck driver becomes North Pole Postman
By day, Mark Perry is an unassuming truck driver for Panera Bread in Franklin. As his alter ego Postman Mark, he coordinates correspondence between Santa and children around the globe.
A self-described elf from Santa’s mail room, Perry operates the North Pole Postman website, which allows children to submit letters to Santa free of charge. (For security reasons, and because Santa already knows where they live, children only provide their first names.) Free games and other activities are also available online.
Customized replies from Santa are available for $9.95, $1 of which is donated to the Liam B.W. Davis Special Needs Trust in Quincy or the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery in Spokane, Wash., where Perry formerly lived. His recent appearances - dressed in his trademark red suit with matching mailbag - have included a stop at Franciscan Hospital for Children in Brighton.
According to Perry, children and their parents are the same the world over. While youngsters commonly wish for electronics, Barbies, Legos, and Hot Wheels, he said, parents ask for Santa’s help in reminding their children to clean their room, do their homework, eat their vegetables, or stop fighting with a sibling. One little girl was asked to stop taking candy from the candy dish without asking, he said.
He’s received letters this season from throughout the United States as well as around the world, including Ireland, Estonia, and Australia.
“Santa knows you’re not perfect,’’ Perry said. “That’s what makes these letters so much fun.’’
Parents may order personalized letters through Dec. 20, but the deadline is Thursday to get one with an official North Pole stamp cancellation. For more information, visit www.northpolepostman.com.
ENCORE CAREER: When Alexander Cook of Bolton takes the stage for “Arabian Nights’’ in Cambridge this month, audience members may recognize him from an unexpected place: church. The play marks Cook’s return to professional theater following a 22-year career as a pastor in Cambridge, Dorchester, and Virginia.
Cook said he wanted to be an actor since age 10, when instead of punishing him for disrupting class his third-grade teacher assigned him a puppet show each day. He progressed to school plays, and landed his first professional job with Center Stage in Baltimore when he was still in high school.
Cook graduated from Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama, appeared in the film “Dawn of the Dead,’’ and worked in regional theaters nationwide for 10 years. He said a spiritual awakening while recovering from a “crash and burn’’ experience with alcohol and drugs led him to the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.
Now a member of First Parish of Bolton, Cook said he is enjoying his return to the “spiritual art’’ of acting - which, he said, isn’t as big a professional leap as some might think. Both settings, he noted, involve ritual through which people gather together to experience emotions, realizations, and ideas.
In “Arabian Nights,’’ Cook plays seven characters in stories depicted through acting, dancing, puppetry, English, Arabic, American Sign Language, music, and visual art.
He also has the starring role as sociopath Jim Collins in an independent feature film, “This Killing Business,’’ now in production.
“My goals now are very different from when I was a young person dreaming of stardom,’’ Cook said. “Now I simply feel free and excited about contributing to high-quality work with good people.’’
“Arabian Nights,’’ the first collaboration between the Nora Theatre Company and Underground Railway Theater, runs through Dec. 31 at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave. in Cambridge. For more information, call 617-576-9278 or visit www.centralsquaretheater.org.
SHOPPING FOR GOOD: At Second Chances in Natick, store manager Debbie Murphy of Wrentham invites shoppers to purchase an affordable gift while benefiting a local greyhound adoption charity.
The thrift shop sells donated items such as jewelry, books, dishware, clothing, small furniture, holiday decorations, and greyhound-related items. According to Murphy, items typically range in price from $5 to $25. The proceeds benefit Hopkinton-based Greyhound Friends Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to placing former racetrack greyhounds in loving homes.
“It’s a friendly little store,’’ Murphy said, “and you never know what you’re going to find.’’
Second Chances, at 6 West Central St., is generally staffed by volunteers and open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more details, call 508-435-5969 or visit www.secondchancesthriftshop.com.
HOLIDAY ROLE: Actor Patrick Ryan of Wellesley performs in North Shore Music Theatre’s 21st production of “A Christmas Carol’’ through Dec. 23 at 62 Dunham Road in Beverly.
Ryan, who is making his North Shore Music Theatre debut, plays an ensemble member and the role of Dick Wilkins. Additionally, he is the understudy for the roles of young Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas present and future.
Ryan graduated from Boston College in 2008, and from the New York City-based Collaborative Arts Project 21 this fall.
Throughout the run of “A Christmas Carol,’’ the North Shore Music Theatre will be collecting new, unwrapped gifts for boys and girls, 2 to 12 years old, in the lobby for donation to Toys for Tots.
Personal listening devices and large-print programs are available. For tickets, call 978-232-7200 or visit www.nsmt.org.
EARLY VISIT: Next Sunday, Santa will visit several neighborhoods in Acton between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. He will ride in a vintage 1936 REO firetruck while being escorted by members of the town’s Fire Department, who will be collecting nonperishable food items for the Acton Food Pantry.
To view Santa’s itinerary, visit www.afd1904.org. If a child is unable to meet Santa outside, a home visit can be arranged by calling the Fire Department at 978-264-9648 or e-mailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.