Wonderful Spirits | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Wonderful Spirits

Local Christmas shows range from goofy to heartwarming

Everyone is looking for something different in their Christmas and the holiday season in general. For some, it's a way to get some time off of school or work, and for others it's a time to reflect on what they're grateful for while surrounded by friends and family. The holidays can also be a rough time for people who have negative connotations connected to Christmas and it can bring out Seasonal Affective Disorder in the happiest of us.

Having a night of holiday-themed theater can either reinforce the warm and fuzzies some of us get from this season or to take our minds off of Christmas for a few hours. The Central Oregon theater scene has quite a few choices when it comes to supporting the arts over the holidays, but there's nothing more disparate than Lurking Squirrel's production of "Christmas Spirits" or CTC's version of "It's A Wonderful Life" as a radio play. Both pieces celebrate the holiday and humanity in general, but they come at the subject so differently that there's really no overlap.

"Christmas Spirits" is an anthology show, mixing bawdy skits, gleefully profane songs and a vaudevillian sense of goofiness. Taking place in Victorian England and being mounted upstairs at The Summit, "Christmas Spirits" celebrates having a delightfully drunken Christmas.

"I have vaudeville in my bloodline," says writer/director/producer/actress JoEllen Ussery. "My great grandfather on my maternal side was a vaudevillian on the East Coast and my grandfather on my paternal side owned a traveling medicine show in Missouri in the '30s. I learned the concept of taking old songs (public domain) and stringing them together to move a show forward. I'm also extremely fond of the Victorian era."

The staging of "It's a Wonderful Life" is wonderful, as it's set in a warm and cozy radio station in the 1940s with a group of seven actors and a piano player portraying every character in the Christmas classic. Hearing the very familiar story as a form of storytelling (as opposed to the actors running around and reenacting all of the action) allows for more focus to be put on the words and ideas. It's beautifully done and director Juliah Rae finds dozens of beautiful little moments in a show most of the country is very familiar with.

Both shows bring something new and different to the (Christmas) table and will appeal to widely different audiences. Whether you're looking for some drunken giggles or heartwarming familiarity, the Central Oregon stage has plenty of options.

"Christmas Spirits"

Dec. 9,10,16,17, 7:30pm

The Summit Saloon, 125 NW Oregon Ave., Bend


Tickets available at lurkingsquirrel.com

"It's A Wonderful Life"

Dec. 8-11 & 15-18

Cascades Theatrical Company, 148 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend


Tickets available at cascadestheatrical.org

About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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