Holiday arts 1

This year the Elf in The Santaland Diaries is being portrayed by Steven Flaa.

As one of the largest and most active community theaters in the country, Venice Theatre consistently hosts a packed schedule of cabarets, full-scale musicals, comedies, dramas and cutting-edge contemporary productions.

Locals and visitors have come to expect exciting and entertaining holiday shows from the theatre, and they will certainly not be disappointed this year. Laurie Colton, director of marketing and public relations, says that one of the community’s longtime favorites is going to be undergoing some interesting changes this time around.

“For the past 18 years, we have been performing A Christmas Carol here at the theatre, but it will be a little different this year,” she said of the Dec. 14-20 show. “We’re going to have a redesign for the scenery and will be adding in some special effects to make it even more magical.”

In the past, the production has utilized more than 60 cast members. This time around, the cast will be scaled down a bit, to make room on the stage for some new set pieces.

In addition to the regularly scheduled performances of A Christmas Carol, the show also is one of several productions throughout the season that the theatre has chosen to be a School-time Performance. These are shows that have core curriculum and social connections for students of all ages. This year’s school-time performance of A Christmas Carol for all ages will be on Dec. 14 at 11 a.m.

The Santaland Diaries (Nov. 30-Dec. 23) is another favorite holiday show, though not necessarily a family-friendly one.

“It’s about a writer who’s out of work, and he answers an ad to get a job as an elf at a department store,” Colton said. “It’s a one-man show and he tells stories about what it’s like to be an elf.”

The play, based on an essay by comedian and author David Sedaris, is a humorous account of Sedaris’ stint working as a Christmas elf in “Santaland” at Macy’s department store. He first read the essay on a National Public Radio show in 1992, and in 1996 Broadway actor and director Joe Mantello adapted the essay for the stage as a one-man, one-act play.

It’s an adult-themed show, but still has a moral message. As he sees thousands of Santa’s visitors, the Elf becomes battle-weary and bitter, occasionally taking out his frustrations on the children and parents. When a different kind of store Santa enters, he is thrust into an uncharacteristic moment of good will, just before his employment runs out.

This year, the Elf will be portrayed by actor/director Steven Flaa.

The third holiday show at the theatre features another group of local, talented performers.

“The Ditchfield Family Singers (Dec. 21-22) will be performing The Sounds of Christmas,” Colton said. “The concert includes the whole family of singers – anyone who marries into the family sings with them, too.”

The Sarasota-based group is renowned from coast to coast for its close harmony and unique vocal blend, highlighted in their mastery of their a capella repertoire, which is a part of every show. Their individual talents and wide variety of musical stylings combine to make them a very versatile group, and their Christmas shows are one of their most popular productions.

During The Sounds of Christmas, the audience can journey with the family from Victorian England and the traditional carols, right through to the Christmas classics made popular by contemporary performers.

Once the holiday rush is over, Venice Theatre will be hosting a very special New Year’s Eve show with The Capital Steps (Dec. 29-31). Often seen and heard on PBS and NPR, the Capitol Steps began as a group of U.S. Senate staffers who set out to satirize the very people and places that employed them. Since then, this no-holds-barred political comedy act has become one of the country’s (and Venice Theatre’s) favorites.

The Venice Theatre is located at 140 West Tampa Ave., in downtown Venice. For more information about shows, and to purchase tickets, visit the website at VeniceStage.com or call 941-488-1115.

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