“Christmas Heist” An Unqualified Success

While the audience began trickling into the Mueller Center at around 6:30pm on Thursday, December 10, 2015, and began settling in for the first performance of The Christmas Heist, I mentioned to Deana that, strangely, I wasn’t nervous at all.

About the same time the next night, I turned to her again and said “I don’t know why, but somehow I’m more nervous tonight than I was yesterday.” By the preshow on closing night, I was too tired to feel either nervous or excited.

All three nights, there were moments that stuck out to me that I’ll remember forever. The uproar of laughter at Officer Powell’s “Stick ’em up!” entrance in City Hall; the blast of sci-fi music as Act 2 got underway and Zach stepped out in costume; the shiver down my spine during the two minute “Merry Little Christmas” scene – a scene played with no dialogue, just glances and gestures; the even bigger laugh at a “TJ Hooker” reference; the audible gasps and even a “WHAT?!” during the final scene when the twist is revealed; and, for me, the most memorable every night  was the ~ the 3-5 seconds of silence in the middle of the “Catfight” scene.

No scene in the show had been more rehearsed, down to not just the blocking, pacing & delivery of the lines, but the space between them. I vividly remember reading the scene to Deana immediately after writing it, being really proud of it, and then really terrified, telling her “oh man, I might have to pull this back if we can’t find someone good enough to do this. But if we do… this’ll stop the show.”

It did.

And I can’t take any of the credit. These performers and crew stepped up and made this show what it was. And the audience equally so. As I told one audience member  who complimented me afterwards, look, I can write anything and get someone to stand up on stage and read it – but the actors bring their own performances, and the audience brings their own reaction and emotional involvement to it. That’s where everything that was great came from, and it has very little to do with me.

I am still, days later, humbled, grateful and honored that the audience reaction was as positive as it was, and that so many people turned out to see the show.

I’m still working out all my thoughts & feelings, not necessarily just about the show, but about what’s next. Never Been to Graceland is getting a pretty heavy re-write, and I have a few ideas for some shorts, but it’s all very much in a “wait and see” holding pattern. Some things came up in the show that I didn’t necessarily need to learn, but needed reminded of how important they are.

I want to tell stories that mean something, and The Christmas Heist means so much to me in so many ways (maybe I’ll talk about that another time) and so will Graceland… but I was reminded that I need to be mindful of not just saying something, but to think about WHY it’s being said – to make sure the pacing is right, that the motivations are clear, that the audience has a reason to keep watching and caring. Not just doing something for the sake of doing it (although there can be value in that as well, depending on what you’re aiming for.)

Expect some updates about next year’s plans here in the next couple weeks once I really sit down and reassess things. But for now, please enjoy this version of The Christmas Heist. It’s not the finalized version, just a mostly unedited view of the stage during the Friday & Saturday shows… but I hope you enjoy it.

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