“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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CAST ANNOUNCED – THE CHRISTMAS HEIST (Updated 11/18)

This cast was one of the hardest we’ve ever had to do. This is literally the first show in Southern Hills Community Theater history where we just did not have the ability to cast everyone we wanted to and everyone who turned out, and believe us, it was extremely hard and sad for us. That being said: everyone who did try out and indicated an interest in helping behind the scenes, we will need a strong supporting stage & technical crew on this production.

Please reach out to us if you want to help us operate the show and “learn the ropes” behind the scenes! And PLEASE try out for the next show, too! Just because there wasn’t a part for you in this one doesn’t mean there won’t be in the next! EVERYONE who turned out auditioned BRILLIANTLY!

There are a few roles whose actors have not yet been finalized but here is the cast of The Christmas Heist.

The Kids:

Alex: Isaiah Crossman
Kelly: Rachel Davis
Kenzie: Jordyn Carey
Robin: Zach Cox
Shawna: Isabel Meyer

The Adults:

Ben: Garett Jack
Sarah: Okoye Zimiga
Mayor Cooper: Angel Haskell
Gus: Jake Pannill
Officer Powell: Morris Nelson
Jack Bussard: Ike Ikonen
Phyllis Falkowitz: Kathe Holen

There’s a Reason…

It’s been quiet on the home front. I’ve been undergoing preparations for the next big Skeeter Bite Productions project: The Christmas Heist, produced in coordination with Southern Hills Community Theatre. Below are the details on the upcoming auditions on October 29 in Hot Springs, SD.

I’m really counting on getting a strong cast & crew for this production, which I will be documenting throughout.

More info coming soon on the behind the scenes end. See you on the flip side.

-Justin

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