Jim and Della sell their most prized possessions to buy the perfect Christmas gifts for each other in O. Henry's short story, "The Gift of the Magi."

But in the end, each discovers the truest Christmas gift is something money can't buy.

Theatre Baton Rouge's Young Actors Program is bringing the holiday story to the stage with opening night on Nov. 28 in the Studio Theatre.

The story plays out in 1905 New York, where Della, played by Hannah Tanib, and husband Jim, played by Hayden Ponjuan, live in a shabby apartment.

Della has $1.87, the total amount she managed to save to buy Jim's Christmas gift. So she decides to sell her flowing, knee-length hair to get money for a platinum chain for Jim's most prized possession, his gold watch.

While the sacrifice isn't easy for Della, because her hair is her most prized possession, she believes it's worth it to make her husband happy. Little does she know, Jim also is making a sacrifice, one that will reveal to both the true gift of this Christmas together.

It's a "sweet story about sacrifice and love," says Jack Lampert, who is directing Peter Ekstrom's adaptation of Henry's tale.

The show is a unique opportunity for the two young actors, who are the only ones in the cast.

"It's one of the reasons I auditioned for the play," Tanib says. "With just two people, you're working with just one other person, and you have to trust each other. It's different but fun."

"It's good experience, and you create a bond," Ponjuan says, adding that he and Tanib must depend on each other.  

The play also offers "a little slice of New York at Theatre Baton Rouge," Ponjuan says. "The audience will feel like they're in this apartment watching these people live their lives."

The show is a fundraiser for the Young Actors Program with John Jacobson's short musical, "Twelve Days of Christmas," as its warm-up act. 

Working alongside Lampert are Young Actors Caroline Feduccia as assistant director and Molly Beth Blanchard as stage manager.

"Since this is a Young Actors fundraiser, we thought this would also be a great time to get some of our kids involved in the production part of the show," Lampert says. "They've been on stage, but this gives them experience in the production part."

"The 'Twelve Days' is a good counterpart to 'The Gift of the Magi,'" says Beth Bordelon, music director for both shows. " ... it's a fun trip through Christmas."

Braden Ulmer, of the Young Actors Program, will tell the story of "Twelve Days" while the audience sings holiday favorites along with cast members, whose dance steps are choreographed by Ashley Stevens, another Young Actors member. 

"It's a fun way for the audience to participate and get into the spirit," Bordelon says.


The Gift of the Magi

A Young Actors Program fundraiser

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, Nov. 28-Dec. 2

WHERE: Theatre Baton Rouge's Studio Theatre, 7155 Florida Blvd.

TICKETS/INFO: $19 at theatrebr.org or (225) 924-6496

Follow Robin Miller on Twitter, @rmillerbr.