By Laurie Wechter, WLAA
Theatre NOVA, Ann Arbor’s professional theatre company, with an exclusive focus on new plays and playwrights is performing “I’m Streaming of an Alright Christmas” by Carla Milarch and R. MacKenzie Lewis.
“Tis the week before Christmas, 2020. The reindeer are on strike; the Elves haven’t made any toys; and Santa can’t figure out the darn “Unmute” button. And it’s all because of the evil Rona Monster menacing the North Pole. Will the Elves save Christmas? Will Rudolph fly again?” is the play’s story of suspense, dancing, eating candy and interacting with your family and more! Advertised as a socially distant “Panto” performed on Zoom (no mask required), audiences can expect a much-needed escape and lots of fun!
So, What is Panto? A panto (aka pantomime) is a traditional fairy tale complete with songs, gags, slapstick, dances, exaggerated characters and lots of audience participation. British actor/manager John Rich introduced the panto in 1717. “It is performed throughout the United Kingdom, Ireland and (to a lesser extent) in other English-speaking countries, especially during the Christmas and New Year season. It employs gender-crossing actors and topical humor with a story more or less based on a well-known tale … Pantomime is a participatory form of theatre, in which the audience is expected to sing along with certain parts of the music and shout out phrases to the performers” according to Wikepedia.
Theatre NOVA’s panto works on two levels, with its silly and interactive way of telling the story for the children’s hilarity, and its topical punning and grown-up humor for the adults. You will be encouraged to cheer, and otherwise help to support good characters and above all to see that good wins over evil.
A panto has a proscribed story line, to which Milarch and Lewis have adhered with the character of Mrs. Santa played to the hilt by Mike Sandusky, and Friendly Elf (Monica Spence) in drag. The villain, the Rona Monster (David Moan) is quite dastardly and must be booed and hissed by the audience at every opportunity!
The technical part of the show is truly clever. Every possible way you can use Zoom is
required in order for the audience to help the story along. There’s even a TikTok dance party! The context of the play is very real and cleverly portrayed in metaphors for our current life under a pandemic.
Audience participation is everything at a panto. Don’t be shy! Join in with the characters as they sing, dance, address you personally, etc. Boo and hiss as loud as you can when the villain comes on! And for heaven’s sakes, eat candy whenever you are told to do so!
“I’m Streaming of an Alright Christmas” will be performed through December 26. Showtimes are at 11:00 am and 2 pm on Saturday the 26th and 5:00 pm on Sunday December 27 and 7 pm on December 24th (today!). Tickets are $10 for one person streaming, $15 for two streamers and $25 for a family of streamers. Tickets are available at www.TheatreNOVA.org. Ticket holders will be given a link for the viewing and interactive fun.
Theatre NOVA is AA’s residential, professional theater company. Its mission is to raise awareness about the value and excitement of new plays and playwrights and provide resources for playwrights to develop their craft by importing, exporting and developing new work. This mission is being supported by the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs and the National Endowment for the Arts.