Plan-B Theatre: Christmas With Misfits | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Plan-B Theatre: Christmas With Misfits

A holiday production poking fun and celebrating the holiday season

Posted By on December 9, 2014, 4:30 PM

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There's no escaping the fact that the holidays are both upon us and conquering us, and while there's a fine majority of people who enjoy this time of year, there's always a congregation who despise it with every breath they have. Luckily, both groups have a production happening this week that will satisfy both their interests as Plan-B Theatre presents Christmas With Misfits. The rare holiday play from the company features a series of original stories from playwright Julie Jensen, presenting a small cast play multiple roles as they take on the holidays with a grain of salt and gusto to match. Today we chat with Jensen as well as three of the actors from the play before its premiere this Thursday. (All pictures courtesy of Plan-B Theatre.)

Kirt Bateman, Colleen Baum, Julie Jensen & Jeanette Puhich
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Gavin: Hey everyone, first off, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

I'm 6'0.5" tall, 280 lbs., hazel eyes and no brown hair (where I really want it). I have a background in agriculture and have replaced my share of John Deere swather teeth. I like long walks on the beach and changing diapers. Seeking same.

Colleen: I love dogs, cats and quiet walks on the beach. I am also an actor and my full-time job is the Volunteer Coordinator for Intermountain Therapy Animals.

Julie: I’m a playwright, the war veteran of many productions. I love writing, and so I keep doing it. And I love these four little plays because they’re weird and true. I am also very fond of these characters, all people I love, and yes, all misfits, as am I.

Jeanette: I've lived and worked in SLC for the past 20 years as an actor, waitress, corporate trainer, bakery attendant, retail, movies, voice-overs – you know, all that stuff that an actor does!

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Gavin: What have each of you been doing in local theater over the past year?

Listening, listening and LISTENING to Jay Perry and Mark Fossen argue in Plan-B's Clearing Bombs. Producing my share of D-, C-, and even B+ level stars in concert. And a few readings (which I love, love, love to do).

Colleen: I performed in Much Ado About Nothing at Pioneer Theatre Company and I was very fortunate to be in Plan-B Theatre’s Radio Hour Episode 9: Grimm.

Julie: I developed a play with Weber State University that was commissioned by Kennedy Center Theatre for Young Audiences. That play, Mockingbird, will be produced by Kennedy Center in January.

Jeanette: I just closed Rapture, Blister, Burn at Salt Lake Acting Company. It was a blast!

Gavin: Julie, how did the concept for the play come about, and what made you decide to do it for Plan-B?

 It started out as a collection of sketch comedy written with a friend of mine, Dee Macaluso. Some of the pieces did not fit what we were trying for. They became Christmas With Misfits. There is also another answer to this question. I have a difficult time with Christmas, and I think others do, too. I have the usual complaints: torture by commercialism. So I decided to write some plays about people who weren’t doing the traditional things on Christmas. Well, once I opened that door, the greatest characters came strolling in! Plan-B is an intimate theatre. And these are small pieces. In addition, I’ve worked with this theater before and I was pleased with the results. So it made perfect sense to give the play to Plan-B.

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Gavin: What was the process like for you writing it out as a set of four plays in one?

It was fun. I only had to write one really important scene from each of the characters’ lives, just one of their Christmases. So in that way the material is focused and specific.

Gavin: What were your first impressions of the play when you read it?

"Ohhh. Poor Julie, she hates Christmas so much. Then how did she write such a funny-sweet-dark play about Christmas? Like those dark chocolate orange sticks, we all get at Christmas! Well, I'll show her! I'll show her a Christmas she'll never forget." I better get on that.

Colleen: I laughed and laughed and shed a couple of tears. I knew it was going to be successful the moment I read it.

Jeanette: I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to read this play in Julie's living room with Brenda Sue Cowley and Cragun Foulger about two years ago. I loved it then and I love it now. I mean, it's a Julie Jensen play. It's funny and painful and weird and thought-provoking all at the same time.

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Gavin: How has it been for each of you fitting into the roles and bringing the characters to life?

Hard! Truly. And SO FUN!

Colleen: Playing a 7-year-old girl has been very different for me and not just because of my bra size, but because of how deeply she is written. Julie has given her a lot of depth that I still need to work on.

Jeanette: It has been so much fun to figure them out! It's been challenging and exciting to dig into these peeps.

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Gavin: What's it been like interacting with each other and developing four plays simultaneously?

It's not been any different from any other play for me in that way. Particularly any other play in which you play multiple characters with other actors playing multiple characters. The difference being that instead of tiny character arcs (as is possible in a multi-character role) invested in a through-line, we can develop these relationships fully (although briefly) in four distinct blocks.

Colleen: Luckily, my fellow actors, director and stage manager all have a wonderful sense of humor as well as making our environment a safe place amongst family. Doing four plays is so much fun – don’t get to do it very often.

Jeanette: Oh man, Kirt and Colleen and I have had so much fun working together. It has truly been a gift. I don't need anything else for Christmas.

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Gavin: Considering it's a holiday play with various themes, how do you believe the audience will react having these themes mixed and intertwined together?

I have no idea, and though I am reluctant to even guess, I hope that they will laugh at themselves while simultaneously either finally find a place where they in our "Christmas Presented by Walmart and McDonalds" society to at least feel gratitude that they don't.

Colleen: There is something for everyone - each play is unique and yet universal at the same time. In other words—we’ve all been there.

Julie: There is great precedent for doing short plays in an evening together. Tennessee Williams wrote several of them, for example. More recently, David Ives has successfully used the form with his most successful plays. In the last 30 years, ten-minute plays have come into their own. People like them. Audiences don’t get lost. They like shifting gears every ten or fifteen minutes. These plays are also unified by a single focus: Christmas. That’s the theme in each of them.

Jeanette: I'm hoping that they laugh, maybe shed a tear. I'm hoping it makes them think about the main theme of this play, which is that not everyone fits into the "American Ideal of Christmas."

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Gavin: What is your personal favorite of the four and why?

I love all my children equally, but all differently, but with exactly the same percentage of love.

Colleen: My favorite play is "The Baby Jesus Collection" which is third. It’s the only one with all three of us in it and we work together really well and the play is absolutely insane!

Julie: I like them all. As with children, one must not show favorites.

Jeanette: “The Baby Jesus Collection" because, well, seriously, do you have to ask with that title?! I can't tell you why because it would ruin the surprise. However, it is the only one that all three of us are in, and that's just too much fun. I love all the plays though!

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Gavin: What are all of your thoughts going into opening night?

I made it!

Colleen: Mostly I’ll be thinking about where to go eat after.

Julie: I’m glad I’m a playwright. I’m glad I could work with Cheryl Cluff, the director of this production, and I’m glad I got to see these great actors in my work.

Jeanette: Bring it on! We need an audience!

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Gavin: What can we expect from all of you in 2015?

As much time as possible with my two-year-old son Oscar.

Colleen: I might clean my house.

Julie: Mockingbird at Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., January 17 through February 1 and then at Pygmalion Theatre Company here in Salt Lake City, April 16 through May 2. I’ve also just finished a redrafting of an older play about politics called Blue Money. I’m marketing it now. I am also working on an adaptation of a story by Peggy Battin.

You can expect me to take a bit of a break from the theater, but hopefully not too long! It's been so great to be on stage again after a three-year hiatus. It's been great to be home.

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Gavin: Anything else you'd like to promote or plug?

Yes, thanks Gavin, as always, I'd like to shout out to my peeps in Layton. Come hang out with us each summer. We have a blast. And a little drama to keep things spicy.

Colleen: Yes! Come and see The Pupcracker, Intermountain Therapy Animals' dog version of The Nutcracker, December 27-28. Tickets are on sale at ArtTix!

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