By Michelle Trauring
On the surface, it’s Christmas time for Our Fabulous Variety Show—with three productions in this year’s “Holiday Spectacular” lineup, kicking off Friday at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
But below the surface brews a whole lot more.
“We really wanted to dig a little bit deeper, and we dealt with some more mature subject matter for ‘The New Christmas Carol’ this year,” explained Anita Boyer, who co-founded OFVS with Kasia Klimiuk in 2010. “We have a very unique mission in theater, in giving our cast their own voice instead of telling them exactly what to say or think or feel in any given scene. It’s much more about getting their own emotions out and telling their own stories.”
The Sag Harbor Express: Why did you decide to scrap the entire script for “A Christmas Carol” and start fresh?
Anita Boyer: We wanted to do something new and we have been feeling just really passionately about the bullying issues lately, and the election.
What is the concept?
Ms. Boyer: In this new show, Scrooge has a daughter. In the first five minutes, he tells her his classic bedtime story, and she finds it super dumb and annoying and lame. Like, “Dad, just stop. I’m in high school now, I don’t want to hear this story about the night that your life changed forever when these three ghosts came and visited you.”
She’s mocking the day his life changed. And then when she goes to sleep, she has the same experiences.
What does she see?
Ms. Boyer: She sees the moment in her past when her mother died in a car accident that kind of started her on a negative path, not really able to deal with her grief. And then her present, where she’s a freshman in high school and dealing with, is she going to go with the cool kids and drink and ignore her old best friends, or is she going to stand up against the bullying?
We see a montage of all four years of her high school career, and we see her choosing to be popular, choosing to ignore her friends, choosing not to stand up against bullying, and the effect that has on our Tiny Tim character. It doesn’t always take a big, traumatic incident for someone to want to take their life. Sometimes it’s just daily neglect and loneliness and depression.
This is pretty heavy, intense take on a classic Christmas story.
Ms. Boyer: We talked about it a lot. Our beneficiary for this show is HUGS in Westhampton Beach, and they deal a lot with teen suicide and suicide prevention programming, and alcohol and substance abuse prevention. We’ve been talking to [Director] Kym Laube because we wanted to make sure we were handling it appropriately and we weren’t putting on a cliché or Hollywood version.
We wanted to make sure we were being honest and providing people not just drama for the sake of being dramatic. We wanted it to be impactful and helpful, so they’ve helped us along the way to make sure we were being responsible with the message.
What other themes do you explore in “A New Christmas Carol”?
Ms. Boyer: Here’s the funny thing—I don’t know if it’s really funny, it’s kind of sad. Our kids did this really great slam poem that was all about “Feel the Bern” and “the politicians with their McMansions in my own backyard—the McTowers, the Mc-Taj-Mahals.”
When Scrooge is telling the bedtime story to his daughter, we included a bit of the slam. We started rehearsals in October. We had this section in there and we were like, “There’s no way, this is going to be really funny come the show time.” And now we’re like, “Oh shit, this is not funny. This is kind of ominous and it’s kind of real.”
Do you see yourselves as pushing the political envelope at all?
Ms. Boyer: We did throw in a “Love Trumps Hate”—it’s a very quick moment and it’s right at the top of the show. We’re hoping people will see it and take it for what it’s worth and stay for the meat of the story, which is really about anti-bullying and the huge impact that tiny moments can have on people’s lives, and the different ways we deal with grief and how we can cope and come out of it better people on the other side.
This show, and the remaining productions—“How Scrooge Stole Christmas” and “Holidays With Raffa”—all have the common holiday theme, but all diverge from it in pretty major ways, wouldn’t you say?
Ms. Boyer: I definitely agree with that. I remember our first rehearsal for “Scrooge.” I sat the kids down in a circle and said, “Okay guys, so I want you to tell me your name and I want you to tell me what you hate about Christmas.” And the first one was like, “I love getting presents!” And I was like, “No, no, I want to know what you hate about Christmas.” And they were like, “Wait, what?”
It started this whole thing—“I hate when I have to open my presents slowly!” And, “I hate when I have to save the wrapping paper!” It was hilarious. Our favorite thing in doing all of our shows is taking something that people are familiar with and twisting it around and creating a whole new story.
Our Fabulous Variety Show will kick off its “Holiday Spectacular” with “The New Christmas Carol” on Friday, December 2, at 7:30 p.m. at Guild Hall in East Hampton. Additional performances will be held on Saturday, December 3, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, December 4, at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $50.
“How Scrooge Stole Christmas” will stage on Saturday, December 3, at 2 p.m. and Sunday, December 4, at 6 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $50. “Holidays with Raffa” will stage on Saturday, December 3, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $20.
For more information, visit ourfabulousvarietyshow.org.