Another Sketchy Xmas 2021

A Dave Stewart designed graphic!

Well, that was different. Different than the usual theatre productions you rehearse for a month and a half and then mount for audiences to see. This one had an opening night and an Omicron villain and that was about it.

Second year in a row that COVID shut down Another Sketchy Xmas. In 2020, it was a week and a half before we were to open. This year, at least we got to perform one night in front of an honest to goodness audience. And they laughed, a bunch!

Before the experience of preparing and performing this show entirely fades from my memory, I thought I’d take some time and highlight one moment from each cast-member that stood out to me. Might not be their best moment, or their favourite moment, or even a significant moment. Just a moment from each that, for me, despite only getting one kick at the performance can, helped make all the work and effort worthwhile.

In alphabetical order:

Kassinda Bulger: Kassinda played The Virgin Mary. So many great moments, but the one that left me beaming was during our one and only performance in front of an audience. Late in the show, Mary has just given birth to the baby Jesus, when she discovers that a ninja (Kelly Caseley) has knocked out the rest of the characters in the manger scene. Only she and the baby Jesus, held in her arms, remain conscious. A panicked Mary asks what the ninja intends to do. 

The ninja runs offstage and returns with a roast goose on a platter on a rolling serving table.

Ninja: Care for some roast goose? I saw him leaving your bedroom on his way back to heaven.

Mary, at this point in the script, is supposed to say:

Mary: A goose?

But, when Kelly rolls out the giant goose on the table, and says her line, there is laughter from the audience (as we hoped there would be). Sustained laughter.

I am in the wings, right next to the stage, waiting for Kelly to return the rolling table from the scene. I am laughing because it’s a funny moment, and because the audience is laughing.  I have a super view of the action, and of Kassinda (Mary) in particular.

I see that Kassinda realizes she cannot say her line right away, because it would get lost in the laughter. So she bides her time. Perfectly. Doesn’t break character. Enhances the moment wonderfully, taking the time to allow her character’s confusion to grow, manifested in her face and body, which in turn adds even more to the humour of the moment and prolongs the laughter even further. It’s not a challenging thing to do, so much, an actor biding their time while laughter subsides. But what makes this moment to wonderful for me is that I can see Kassinda is in total control of the moment and seems to be absolutely relishing every second of it. She eats it up, absolutely perfectly. It’s a masterclass in comedic patience. And right at the exact time she should, just when the audience laughter has diminished just enough that she can be heard, she says:

Mary: A goose?

The moment, and the line has never ever been played and said so masterfully. And for me, that moment – seeing Kassinda entirely in her element – made me so very happy.

Jordan Cameron: Jordan played Balthasar, one of the wisemen. We wrote his and Noah Nazim’s wisemen Melchior as a couple of buffoons. Wise idiots. Jordan and Noah turned out to be a terrific comedy duo. Their characters really meshed well with each other. One of my favourite moments of Jordan’s came in a rehearsal.

At the beginning of the wisemen scene, his Balthasar and Noah’s Melchior are waiting for the arrival of the third wiseman, Caspar. To while away the time, these two vain and competitive characters attempt to one-up each other with supposedly clever poetical rhymes. The two characters are eager to show off to one another. Melchior spouts off a fine rhyme, then Balthasar attempts one that doesn’t quite land. We see that this bothers him a bit. Melchior shoots off another rhyme. Balthasar’s second rhyme is even less impressive than his first. He’s starting to sweat and panic a bit now. He simply cannot allow himself to lose this rhyming game, which would imply his lesser intelligence.  Melchior tosses out another rhyme that he thinks is quite clever – he is very full of himself. Finally, desperate and panicked, Balthasar attempts his third rhyme, and says:

BALTHASAR: Who’d dare challenge the eyewitness REPORTS… of three wisemen come from Far Eastern …PORTS? (under his breath) Fuck!

In this particular rehearsal, it was the first time Jordan added the “Fuck!” to the line – it was barely audible and spontaneous – and it was just beautiful and perfect in showing his character’s desperation and failure. Obviously, the addition stayed in the script, and every subsequent time – EVERY subsequent time – Jordan uttered it, it made me laugh out loud.

Kelly Caseley: Kelly played the evil ninja who masquerades as the wiseman Caspar. She had a bunch of funny moments in her main scene with the other wisemen, where her character attempts to impersonate a man. Funny delivery of lines and funny physical comedy.

But the moment I want to talk about is in the final scene. The ninja has just revealed that she’s killed God, who is/was a goose, and is now going to kill the baby Jesus. When she begins her run across the stage, to attack the baby Jesus, who is held in Mary’s arms, she is fully and totally stopped by the magical powers of the baby Jesus. It’s as if she’s hit a forcefield wall; as if the baby Jesus has taken control of her mind and body, her limbs and legs. She starts beating herself up.

That’s the gag. Physical comedy where an actor has to pretend that an outside force is causing them to hit and punch themself and throw their body around a bit like a ragdoll.

In the course of rehearsing for a show, there are scenes and moments that invariably get overlooked by the director. By this director, at least. The idea being we’ll set aside an appropriate amount of time later to really nail that moment and make it great. 

And one would think the big climactic moment of the show – where Good (baby Jesus) defeats Evil (ninja) – would of course get the rehearsal it needs to ensure it is great.

So, that didn’t happen. Kelly and Kassinda ran through it only a couple of times during a rushed rehearsal in the days leading up to Dress Rehearsal. 

My temporary direction to Kelly was basically

“and then Jesus makes you punch yourself and stuff until you’re defeated. The background music for this moment is 31 seconds long, so you need to keep that up for the duration of the song, before you run off stage in defeat. Okay, great. Let’s try it once or twice. No we don’t have the music to play right now. But it’s, like, exciting fight music. You’ll hear it, hopefully, during Dress. Aaaaannnd, action!”

So, my moment for Kelly is the moment where Kelly, first time trying it, mere days before we open, takes this absolute lack of direction on my part, and, no doubt feeling like a complete fool, decides  to commit to the bit and makes it a sharp bit of physical comedy. So thanks Kelly for seeing me fail you there as a director and taking the initiative to make it work despite my failings.

Jay Gallant: Jay played Habius, the diligent shepherd. This show is full of big, loud, dumb, idiotic characters. A couple of the characters in the show are required to be less so. To be the person towards whom the idiocy is aimed. Jay’s Habius is one of those characters. It’s important, I think, for the audience to like Habius, to feel for him when he’s attacked by the stupid. And Jay absolutely delivers on the likeability quotient of the character. But there’s one line he’d always say that would make me laugh, and that’s my Jay moment.

After Habius initially leaves the scene, to get some rest, the other two shepherds (Dylan Miller and Marli Trecartin) are visited by The Angel Gabriel (Richard Schroeter), who attempts to get them to go to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus. Because the shepherds are too stoned to understand what Gabriel wants, they get giggly. And loud. Habius returns angrily and tells them to shut up so he can sleep. Then he sees Gabriel, a perceived intruder. Not at all grasping what Gabriel even is, yet being the good shepherd he is, he swings into action to protect the sheep – grabs the shepherd’s crook and attempts to ward off this strange, potentially dangerous beast.

Habius: Guys! Keep it down, I’m trying to get some shut-eye. (sees the angel) Oh, shit!! (immediately goes into sheep protection mode. Grabs the shaft and approaches Gabriel) Shoo! Get outta here, rodent! Woolibut, save yourself!!

Quite simply, it’s Jay’s delivery of “Get outta here, rodent!” that makes me laugh every time.

Benton Hartley: Benton played Joseph. Of Nazareth. Fiance/Husband to Mary. Step-father to baby Jesus. Benton was pretty much ready to roll from the start of rehearsals this year, having rehearsed as Joseph for the doomed production last year. Mary and Joseph feature together in three different scenes throughout the show. Their first scene, where Mary tells the puzzled Joseph that she’s pregnant with God’s child. The finale Nativity scene, where they arrive in Bethlehem and the baby Jesus is born. And a middle scene where, as they are travelling to Bethlehem, they stop in the desert for an inexplicable bit of a romantic entanglement.

And it is in this scene where my Benton moment lives. As they try and figure out what sex is, they keep getting interrupted by their pantomime donkey (played by Jacob Rollwage and Cameron MacDonald). At the climax of the scene, Mary has exited offstage to get naked, while Joseph sits on a blanket, promising to keep his eyes closed until she returns to the blanket. Unbeknownst to the eyes-shut-tight Joseph, the donkey has sported a huge donkey erection, and has taken up a position directly behind the sitting Joseph. The donkey’s dick starts to tap tap tap onto the cheek of Joseph’s face. His eyes closed, as he promised, and being sexually naive, he mistakes the dick as Mary’s hand, and allows himself to enjoy the sensations of the touching. This goes on for a few very awkward, very funny, moments, after which Mary returns to the scene:

The face-dicking continues. Mary enters, wrapped in a blanket.  She sees the scene.

Mary (screams):  Joseph!!

There is a pause as Joseph wonders why Mary’s voice is farther away than it should be.

Joseph:  Over there? 

Mary:  Oh Joseph.

Joseph opens his eyes.  The donkey continues to slap its dick on Joseph’s face for a moment more.  

Benton was never sure if he would be able to get through these moments of this scene without laughing – corpsing. It was a struggle for all of us not to laugh during rehearsals, for sure.

Unfortunately, three days before we opened (and closed, COVID), Benton had made the decision to drop out of the show because he ended up being a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID a few days earlier (Benton tested negative). It was absolutely heart-breaking that he couldn’t do the show (two years in a row!!), and I’m still so gutted that he never had the opportunity to prove he wouldn’t laugh as a ridiculous panto horse face-dicked him for minutes on end. Because I know he wouldn’t have laughed.

And so those happy, giggly moments during rehearsals were my Ben moments.

Cameron MacDonald: Cameron played Matthew, leader of the gospel writers. He’s the guy in the group that has the most run-ins with Courtney (played by Lauren Thomson), the newest addition to the gang of gospel writers. Courtney has some wild ideas about how to dramatically spruce up the birth story – including the introduction of a ninja who roasts the God-Goose and attacks Jesus – and it’s left to Matthew to dismiss all her ideas.

I’m surprised I never really realized this before, but it turns out the role of Matthew is, comedically, a pretty thankless one. The ultimate straight man, I don’t believe he has a purposefully funny line in the whole show. His whole role is to react to the foolishness that besets him. Cameron plays Matthew pitch-perfectly.

The tempting thing, in a comedy, would be to try and wrestle some extra comedy out of such a character, to perhaps mug and pull focus from the others. That Cameron didn’t ever do this, and chose to play Matthew as he was needed to be played – that he did his job – is my Cameron memory from this experience.  If he had any funny lines, I know Cameron would have aced them all, and it’d be one of those that I’d be writing about here. Any humour that comes out of his character is within the seriousness with which he takes himself.

Thanks, Cameron, for playing it straight.

Sam MacDonald: Sam played Luke, another of the Gospel writers. Luke has perhaps the fewest lines in the show. As such, we decided to hint at Luke’s private life, away from the writing group, and we made the choice that Luke’s sexuality is rather ambiguous. Well, maybe not so ambiguous. When he first arrives for the meeting in our show, he declares apologies for being late, explaining he’s fresh from the bathhouse.

Luke: Sorry, sorry, sorry! I know I’m late, but I was at the bathhouse, in a lineup and got stuck behind this little asshole. Literally. Wink! So, what’d I miss?

We always wanted to make sure that we weren’t making fun of Luke’s lifestyle – that his being gay or bisexual wan’t the joke. And we also wanted to try and convey that Luke seemed free and open about his sexuality, and that the other writers didn’t seem at all bothered about it. We thought “wouldn’t that be a nice fantasy – a world where people’s sexuality wasn’t an issue.”

So, I was beyond pleased, when, at some point rather early on in rehearsals, Sam added the “Wink!” to the line. For me, the addition of that one word expressed perfectly Luke’s freedom in who he was, and his comfort in expressing it in front of the others. The wink stayed, of course, and that’s my highlighted Sam moment.

Lennie MacPherson: I love performing with Leonard. He always brings a surprising and different energy to the roles he plays, and I really appreciate the care and thought that he seems to put into his characters.

In this production, Lennie played Brodie in the Bayfield scenes. Being on stage in this scene with Lennie, I literally had to bite my tongue, to keep from laughing – and still I laughed practically every time – when Brodie has his mini-mental-breakdown.  One of the great breakdown monologues in all of theatre.

BRODIE:This is brutal. I tell you what it is, it’s like i say, bad things always happen in three.  liquor, eastlink, loights.  That’s why churchy people is always doing the skull and crosst bones – to cancel out the curse. It’s called the holy trimo-tiolog-trig… travis tritt? I smell t-r-o-u-b-b-e-l? It’s like a triple triple at tims.  God, jesus, santa.  Father, son, whole wheat toast. them little crackers they eat? probably dempsters or some rich shit.  but what do we have every morning for breftest? whoite bread.  and baloney.  maybe some katsup.  and it’s delicious.  and we all know who hates baloney, I don’t have to tell you. i’m gonna have to cross myself like a million hundred times to start making up for all that baloney eatin.

The only time in my performance career where I had to literally bite my tongue to attempt to keep from laughing. And so, that has to be my Lennie moment from this experience.

Keir Malone: Keir played gospel writer John. Unfortunately, Keir had to drop out of the production early in December. My favourite Keir moments in rehearsal were a toss up between his (purposefully) awkward physicality as he mimes the sexual congress of Lida and the Swan

JOHN:  But it sounds a little like the story of Leda and the Swan.

Courtney: What?

JOHN: Leda and the Swan. Zeus takes the form of a swan and rapes Leda.

Courtney: Well, obviously our God wouldn’t rape Mary…she’d have to be into it.

And his performance during this exchange:

Courtney: Okay…fine…so how does she get pregnant and still be a virgin?

JOHN: I was thinking an angel could just… speak to her…and the holy ghost could… impregnate her… with his… words.

Courtney laughs.

Courtney: Obviously you don’t know anything about writing. Or sex.

JOHN: Actually, Courtney, I think I know quite a bit about writing.

Courtney: Well, if you did, you’d know that “sex” sells books, and you’d know that ladies can’t get pregnant through their ear-holes.

I wish an audience, other than the people in rehearsals, could have seen Keir in this role. He was great in it!

Dylan Miller: Dylan played the shepherd Jonibus. I’ll always appreciate Dylan’s commitment – in every rehearsal – to going deep and long and hard every time he had to stoner-laugh way too much at whatever struck his character as funny – which was, as written, pretty much everything. I suspect that many people would, at some point during rehearsals, give it a half-energy kind of performance. Like, “I know I’m supposed to laugh really hard and long during this moment, and I will on the night, but during rehearsals I’ll kind of half-ass it if that’s okay.” I fully appreciate that Dylan never took this attitude.

But my take-away from Dylan is his always terrific line-reading of “Learn to fucking read, dude” to the illiterate Jonibus in this exchange:

HABIUS: Screw you!

JONIBUS: Yeah…I know you do.


JONIBUS: He screws you…but its E-W-E instead of Y-O-U.

DUBIOUS:  “ eee double-dee-dooee instead why low you???”…what the fuck is that?.

JONIBUS: Learn to fuckin’ read, dude!

It’s so great to see Dylan perform in a scripted piece of theatre, and bring his personality to the character he plays. I hope he gets more opportunities to do so!

Noah Nazim: Noah played the wiseman Melchior. And I loved pretty much every moment of every performance. He played the pomposity of intellect wonderfully and nailed the unaware idiocy of the character too. So many great line deliveries, but one that I always looked forward to, and one that always entertained me was this, at the culmination of his and Balthasar’s inane tests to discover the gender of their fellow wiseman Caspar:

CASPAR:  Wait! What’s with all the testing? A strange way to get to know someone you’ve just met, surely?

MELCHIOR: Oh, I think we got to know the real you, Shirley!

I’m not sure what it was about this line in particular but it always entertained me more that it perhaps should have. I think it was because Noah always played the line fully, with glee. Without any hint, as an actor or the character, that the line was supposed to be funny. Sometimes an actor, mostly inadvertently, might show some sort of self-awareness that the lines they say are supposed to be funny. Noah never, to my eyes, gave away that indication that he was saying funny things.

Anne Putnam: Anne volunteered herself to be our stage manager. It’s always so wonderful to have somebody as SM who knows what they’re doing, what they’re supposed to be doing, and does it well.
One of the things a SM sometimes does in rehearsals is read the stage directions out loud as the actors recite the lines. And it is these stage directions (bold in italics), in the Mary & Joseph Attempt to Have Sex scene (Ride That Ass), that Anne reads out loud that never failed to make me laugh:

Joseph closes his eyes tight, as Mary exits.

Mary:  Promise no peeking! No matter what!

Joseph:  I promise.

The donkey moves directly behind Joseph, its erection beside Joseph’s face.

Joseph:  Hurry back, darling!  I have a feeling this one is going to work!!

The donkey’s dick starts hitting Joseph in the face.

Joseph:  Oh, you’re back already!  Okay.  Still not peeking, until you tell me you’re under the blanket.  Just like I promised!

The donkey’s dick continues to hit Joseph in the face.

Joseph:  That feels nice, Mary, but are you going to get under the blanket now?

Donkey face-dicking.

Joseph:  Mary?  Are you hearing me, Mary?

The face-dicking continues. Mary enters, wrapped in a blanket.  She sees the scene.

Mary (screams):  Joseph!!

There is a pause as Joseph wonders why Mary’s voice is farther away than it should be.

Joseph:  Over there? (pause) Okay, that’s not your hand that’s stroking my face, is it.

Mary:  Oh Joseph.

Joseph opens his eyes.  The donkey continues to slap its dick on Joseph’s face for a moment more.  Then the donkey moves away a couple of feet.  Joseph is surprisingly still and expressionless.

I wanted to surreptitiously record Anne speaking these stage directions, so I’d have them to listen to any time I was feeling down and needed a sure-fire bit of funniness to lift my spirits.

Graham Putnam: Graham played Knut, the Norwegian boarder in the Bayfield scenes. His recitation of the Norwegian “Pepperbake” song always slayed me.

Then, a week or so before we opened, due to Keir’s departure, he got thrust into playing John in the Gospel scene. He played John differently than Keir. Keir’s John had something of a dignified self-assurance. Graham’s John was more of an unaware buffoon. Totally different energies, but both working for the character and the scene.

And then a couple of days before we opened, Graham also got thrust into playing Joseph in the Mary & Joseph scenes. Matter-of-factly because he was the guy who knew all the scenes and characters the best – and he had played Joseph before. But most importantly, because Graham would be terrifically funny.

So, apart from him being a total and deeply funny talent, my Graham moment, then, I suppose, would have to be the deep appreciation I have for Graham’s willingness to step in and keep the show going.

Jacob Rollwage: Jacob played Mark, another of the Gospel Writers group. In the original version of this show, the outlier gospel writer, the troublemaker, was a character named Rick. In our 2013 production, we changed the character to Courtney. Having the character be a female opened up new possibilities of dynamics between the members of the group. One idea is that Mark has a crush on Courtney, and it’s because of his crush that she has been allowed into the writing group. And the other male writers have some animosity towards Mark because of this.

Over the subsequent rehearsals, from then up until our final rehearsal this year, we (mostly me, I suppose) would keep adding new lines for Mark to say – or ways to inflect already-written lines – that hinted at him being something of a sad, inexperienced, desperate romantic fool. And during all these rehearsals, as I’d suggest a new line that had just come to me – some of which would stay in the script, probably many more that didn’t – Jacob never failed to make every line hilarious.

This sequence from the scene, and specifically Jacob’s line reading, always made me laugh:

JOHN: Weren’t we supposed to go over the birth story today?

Courtney: (begnis shuffling through her papers to look for her birth story notes)  Good idea…it all starts with the birth story.

MATTHEW: Yes. Now, I like the shepherds, I like the wisemen…but it needs more.

Luke: We have to make it clear that God is the Father.

MATTHEW:  But he’s also the son.

JOHN:  And the holy ghost.

MARK:  But there can only be one God…But three of them… and it all has to be clear.

They all mull this over for a moment.

Richard Schroeter: Richard played the angel Gabriel. As we (Graham and I) were contemplating who we might cast to play Gabriel (the previous year’s Gabriel couldn’t do it), I got excited when we came up with the idea of it being Richard. When I asked him if he’d be interested, he explained that he didn’t have much, or really any, experience performing scripted stuff on stage. His standup experience, he figured, was a different beast entirely, and so if we were willing to take a risk on his theatrical inexperience, he’d be happy to take on the risk of diving into this experience.

Right from the first moments, Richard was so very eager to do well – or at the very least, as he had said himself, “to not suck or disappoint”. It was exciting and energizing to see someone be so open and eager, during rehearsals where seemingly every moment must have been a new experience or challenge.

If there is one word that perhaps sums up Richard’s experience – at least from my perspective – it would be “discovery”. Every rehearsal, I could sense him discovering new experiential things, for the first time, as we went along. It was all so very new to him.

This is my impression of his experience, anyway. Richard, no doubt, has a different perspective on it. One thing I’m confident about, though, is that I didn’t really offer him much guidance along the way. Plenty of support and encouragement, I hope, that he was doing well. But I suspect he would have liked to have a more solid foundational footing in regards to how this whole experience and process was all supposed to unfold. And I don’t think I gave him enough of that.

Still, it was a joy to watch Richard, during rehearsals, discover his acting abilities and talents. Overcoming his nerves about memorizing lines. Getting comfortable enough to feel confident enough to ad-lib a bit. It is one of these ad-libs in rehearsal that is my Richard moment.

JONIBUS: Wait, did you say something about a lamb? Like kebabs? Oh man, I’d love a coupla lamb kebabs!! (a bit improvised) I’m starving!

DUBIOUS: Hi Starving, I”m Dubious!

They laugh.

GABRIEL: (quiet) Behold. (a bit louder) Behold. (Shouting) Behold!!! The saviour child is born in the city of David. He is Emanuelle, the lamb of god, the son of man. He layeth in a manger.

The ad-lib is the triad of “Behold”s. Originally, there was just one Behold in the script. The “Behold” was supposed to be loud and shocking enough to stop the shepherds from their laughing. One time through a line-reading, Richard had said the solitary (as written) “Behold” rather quietly. Too quietly to be heard over the laughter of Dylan and Marli’s characters. So he repeated it again, a bit louder. “Behold!” Still too quiet, so again. This time a yell. “BEHOLD!” It finally stopped the laughter. And it was a great physical way to emphasize the struggle that the character of Gabriel was going through, trying to get these deadbeats to pay attention to him.

I am so sad that Richard, like all of us, only got one kick at the can to perform what he’d rehearsed in front of an actual live audience. During that one performance, in that one scene, though, I was backstage, cheering like a proud father, as he nailed his performance. I could feel his confidence growing exponentially through that experience of acting in front of an audience, and I would have loved to see him explode and explode again even bigger and brighter over the course of those three other shows we never got to perform.

Rosie Shaw: I was considering just putting this as my Rosie portion: I’d happily have Rosie be part of any show I was involved in.

I love Rosie’s energy and talent and enthusiasm and abilities. Rosie played Trina, the daughter in the Bayfield scenes. Right from the very first utterance of her first line, I knew that she was perfect for the part.

We’re in something of a transition period as a society, as we try and find and attain balance and fairness and equity and positivity for everyone. Part of that challenge, for me, is rewiring my mind as a writer of comedy, to better consider how the words we choose in an effort to be funny can affect people. Many jokes or concepts are no longer acceptable or permitted.

The family in the Bayfield scenes are rough and rude and base and foul-mouthed people. I was unsure as to how, in today’s awakening (awokening?) society they would be received. Are they and their kind no longer an appropriate vehicle for satire? I won’t attempt to answer or analyze that any further here, but I bring it up because I was fully ready to be told (by Rosie, who was to play one of the characters, and then by an audience) that they weren’t comfortable with the tone and language and political incorrectness of these scenes. And I’d accept it.

But Rosie didn’t bring it up, and I never really pursued the concept with her, so I took that to mean she was comfortable enough with the content. I was glad for that.

This is a long way to get to my Rosie moment, but it relates to the above. There is a beat in the 2nd Bayfield scene, where son Brodie is thrilled that his DIY still seems to be working. Only to have Dougie ridicule his effort. It prompts this exchange between Rosie’s Trina and my Dougie:

TRINA: I think it looks good, Brodie. What the frig have you ever done to help, Dougie?

DOUGIE: How about workin fuckin 240 hours a week three months at a time. More than you and your fuckin Christmas jewellery. How many you sell this month, Dragon’s Den?

TRINA:  Go suck off a reindeer, ya Goler. 

One day, early on in rehearsals, Rosie asked what the Goler reference meant. It would be good to know its meaning, obviously, to help her recite the line. So I told her the basics of it, how it referenced a poor rural clan in 1980s Nova Scotia who achieved ignominy and infamy for sexual abuse and incest. The name became an insult for awhile, a sort of shorthand for implying someone was behaving in a low-class, immoral kind of way.

That knowledge, I think, affected Rosie. I don’t think she was prepared for that answer. Had Rosie balked at having to say that line, to reference such a sad and horrible moment in history, I’d have fully supported her position. Even though I thought it was a valid and pertinent use in this context. Later on in the scene, during a power blackout, Dougie, taking advantage of the darkness, attempts to grope Trina, but she calls him out on it. The implication being that Trina has suffered Dougie’s awful attentions before, and so calling him a Goler earlier would fit with how she sees him as an incestuous predator.

Thanks, Rosie!

Lauren Thomson: Lauren played Courtney, the new writer added to the group of gospel writers working on the story of Jesus. The conceit of the scene is the other writers are resentful of Courtney and have trouble accepting her ideas and suggestions for improving the Jesus story. It’s Courtney who comes up with the idea of God as a goose and the appearance of a ninja-assasin who attempts to kill Jesus. Despite the other writers’ outright dismissal of her ideas, her version of the story becomes canon in our telling of the birth of Jesus.

From the very first rehearsal, Lauren played the heck out of that character, and always seemed to be finding new ways, subtle ways, to say lines or use her physicality. 

One night in rehearsals, she added a change of voice to these particular lines: 

Courtney: Yeah Yeah. Satan. Satan sends a magical assassin to, like, kill the baby Jesus. And the assassin knocks everybody out – the wisemen, the shepherds…everybody- using his magical sleeping dust. And he’s just about to kill baby Jesus, when – bing bang bong – a total miracle happens…

From “Satan sends…” onward, she took on a  sort of deep, guttural, otherworldly demonic voice. It was something she just chose to do, I suppose. Nobody suggested it. Nobody ever conceived of changing the voice on those lines. It was something she decided to do, or she did in the spur of a moment, and it worked wonderfully, and it became an essential element to her character and the scene. And that unsolicited decision to try that idea out is my Lauren moment.

Marli Trecartin: Marli played Dubious, one of the stoner shepherds. In the shepherd’s scene, her character, along with Dylan Miller’s Jonibus, are supposed to laugh hard and for a long period of time, frequently throughout the scene. If you’ve never had to laugh convincingly, on command, you should know it takes a lot of energy and commitment. And I always appreciated when she and Dylan, every rehearsal, would expend that energy and commit to big long, infectious laughing.

I just wanted to point that out, again, because I appreciate that effort. But my Marli moment is something else entirely. Marli was supposed to play Dubious in the previous year’s production. It didn’t happen, as I’ve said. But during the early part of those rehearsals in 2020, Marli asked if she could make a change to a line – or, actually, add a response to line that already existed.

The line in question was this, from Jonibus towards Dubious, said in a joking manner:

JONIBUS: If they got me to read your mom’s diary I’d just be like…dear diary today I sucked off a roman centurion for a silver coin. I’m such a slut.

Marli said that while it wasn’t a big deal, she wasn’t crazy about the demeaning nature of the line, and asked if she could add a line from her character, in response:

DUBIOUS: No shame in sex work.

A simple yet awesome addition, and a terrific and necessary response. It made me realize (not for the first time) how some of the stuff we write hits people in different ways, and we should always be cognizant of that.

Every time Marli said “No shame in sex work”  since, I appreciated its addition and I appreciated that Marli decided it was important enough to her to speak up. 

Linda Wigmore: Linda played Tami, the mother-figure in the Bayfield scenes. It was a role I had performed in the past. During the previous year’s rehearsals, before COVID shut rehearsals down, I had to back out of the production because of family health issues. We needed somebody to play Tami. We asked Linda and she came in for her first rehearsal and from that point on, there was never any question who would ever play Tami again. Linda was perfect. 

Tami is a character who is addicted to watching television. She loves her Christmas stories, especially. And so, when the cable goes out and the TV no longer works, Tami gets a bit flustered. And she gets even more flustered after she realizes her daughter Trina wasn’t able to pay the cable bill, and watching those Christmas stories on the TV is now in real jeopardy. She has a bit of an emotional breakdown as she delivers these lines:

TAMI: Now trina, we all know you work hard and no one cares more than you, but not having cable is no joke. Especially over Christmas… (starts getting emotional) I don’t know. I think I was hoping you’d have the answers, but I’m starting to freak the fuck out. 

Every time, Linda played these lines so much better, so much deeper and more truthful than I ever did or could. And that – among many I could also choose – is the Linda moment I’m putting out there.

That’s it!

Much longer and more blabbier than I expected this to be! Those are just some of the so many wonderful moments and recollections I have of getting to rehearse – and actually perform once! – Another Sketchy Xmas in December 2021 with an amazing group of people.

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