Sunday, November 14, 2021

Ten Minutes to Midnight: 9 Quirky Plays for the Holidays

My first Christmas Pageant in elementary school (this would have been in 1973, surely they called it a "Christmas" pageant) was both a time of wonder and discovery. It was a wonder to be in our school after dark, a time when you should be at home and had never given a thought to what night time inside of a school might look like.

Also, one of our teachers had a “crystal ball” which was a gift from Santa. It glowed green and when you spoke into it, Santa could hear you! He didn’t speak back, that would have been asking too much. But just the idea of a one-way mystical communication device was enough to send the imagination on a whirl.

During the show we were gathered in one of the classrooms, waiting for our turn to take our place on the risers in the cafeteria. I was wandering the hall, probably headed to the bathroom or something, when I saw something in that teacher’s darkened room. It was the crystal ball. I went into the room, and took a closer look. It wasn’t glowing. It was plastic. It had an electrical cord coming from the back. It was just a light.

Was I disappointed to learn the truth? Maybe a little. I don’t remember ever having been a "believer" anyhow. But now I knew a secret, something that my classmates did not know. And I didn’t tell them about it, because it was mine.

Each holiday season I want to be involved. It’s not enough to indulge in the holidays (which I do, you know me). I want to participate. I want to provide the entertainment that provides joy during the holiday season, especially for those people who might only see one play a year, and it’s this one.

I have written before describing why I am goofy for the holidays. It’s about warmth and love, introspection and also gratitude. But though I have treasured, bittersweet memories of private, cloistered companionship (and even solitude) the sheer mania of the impending winter season makes me want to get out and be with the masses, to see the lights, to hear the music, to tell the stories.

Here’s my holly-jolly resume, dating back thirty years. Follow the links for further details!

Also: Joy of Christmas
(WEWS, 1978)
Stealing Christmas at Karamu House (actor)
1992: 12 Bands of Christmas Sing! At Cleveland Public Theatre (Guerrilla Theater Co., comic interludes)
1999: The Santaland Diaries at the Brick Alley Theatre (Bad Epitaph, producer)
2000: The Santaland Diaries at Cleveland Public Theatre (Bad Epitaph, producer)
2000: The Wayward Angel at Old Stone Church (Bad Epitaph, producer)
2002: The Santaland Diaries at Beck Center (director)
2003: Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge at Cleveland Public Theatre (actor)
2013: Adventures In Slumberland at Talespinner Children’s Theatre (playwright)
2017: The Santaland Diaries at Playhouse Square (Cleveland Public Theatre, actor)
2021: 10 Minutes to Midnight at Cleveland Public Theatre (contributing playwright)

See that last one? Yes! Theater cheer this holiday season at CPT! Playwrights from Cleveland and beyond have created nine short plays, and having attended the first reading last week I am very glad to be in such company. They’re engaging, touching, and very amusing scripts about the season of light.

Actor Cait Butler & Assoc. Director Ananias Dixon
And this is special. It is as though holiday entertainments must either be childlike and sentimental, or intentionally the opposite – outrageous, cynical, or obscene. The plays on this roster are intended for an adult audience, but they’re about family, anxiety, romance; my own pieces (yes, I have more than one, because they are short) are about tradition, death, legacy, and one kick-ass patisserie.

The production is shepherded by Caitlin Lewins, with whom I had a marvelous experience creating Savory Taṇhā for CPT during the lockdown, and Ananias Dixon who was videographer for I Hate This for Playhouse Square (coming soon, I promise).

Playwrights include Dayshawnda Ash, Melissa Crum, Emma Dahl, John Dayo-Aliya, Maya Malan-Gonzalez, and me. The acting company features Tania Benites, Dar’Jon Bentley, Cait Butler, Nickol Calhoun, Sylka Edmondson, Brooke Myers, Drew Pope, Andrew Valdez and Katie Wells.

This ensemble is incredible. I think this show is going to be incredible. I’m very excited about it!

Cleveland Public Theatre presents "Ten Minutes to Midnight: 9 Quirky Plays for the Holidays" directed by Cailtin Lewins, opens Friday, December 3, 2021.

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