CHRISTMAS ON THE TV HEARTH

One thing that this season has to offer is the mergence of media and the rituals that go along with it all that make this month unique where if it was totally missing, it would be noticed!

Over the decades, Christmas a.k.a. “The Holidays” and television have been played as strange bedfellows. Since the dawn of TV, there have been many occations where TV has played its part of how this season is depicted as something that is festive as is part of all of the merry making–or at least as an attempt to be depicted as merry.

Let’s face it! There have been many video events that have appeared on the medium called television that has become an extension of the season to many folks that falls within the same methods as traditional rituals that are part of Christmas. Folks just loved to gather around the TV machine for either a special Christmas themed episode from one of their favorite TV shows, or to view a single “special” program that spoke for the holiday season. These kind of TV specials focused upon a specific person–usually a media personality that has some professional comedy and/or musical background, that participated in skits and segments that overemphasized the season that was for the entire family to enjoy. A good number of these personalities made a second career in bringing warmth and joy for the season through video, such as Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Andy Williams, Judy Garland, and many others remembered and a few long forgotten. The basic theme to these special programs ranged from joyous, bright, gay (the original definition of “gay”), sentimental, and perhaps a bit sweet and silly. However, video audiences didn’t seem to mind too much as all of these TV programs became a welcomed part of the media landscape and served as a vehicle for product sponsors to sell their goods.

These series of stand alone Christmas specials aired on the big three TV networks from the middle 1950’s and continued through the middle 1990’s. Since the 90‘s, cable TV channels has more time and space on their schedules to offer alternative Christmas themed programing that was more akin to its audience, around the same time when the fornoted media personalities were either long retired or dead. Those that did retire never found a personality to fill their shoes (so to speak) in continuing in what they did for TV audiences to be merry and jolly, sing a few songs as either as a solo artist or with the assistance of TV family members or their “special guest stars” to add toward the comedy and/or musical selections performed by the backing of a full orchestra.

One element that cable TV bright to forth was the Christmas themed TV movie, a feature length program that told a story that took placed over the Christmas season (thus the genre “Christmas themed TV movie”), that featured a character that was in some kind of domestic dilemma. The character in question would eventually find some form of salvation through another person and/or source that took advantage of what the season was all about to make things correct for the protagonist(s) with a pleasant conclusion. The stories told were simple enough to bill it as either light drama, comedy, (or both), as well as hold some form of romance added for pleasant and festive flavor.

These kind of TV features were first aired as part of The Hallmark Hall of Fame when it moved from NBC to CBS in the late 1970’s. When the network aired these programs, they were presented with a bit more drama, yet still kept their happy ending. When The Hallmark Channel became part of the cable TV medium in the 1990’s, its focus changed to something out of a romantic comedy catering to more of a female demographic–the kind of demo that purchase products made by Hallmark Cards and their many offshoots. The quality of these features were just “OK”, as the stories were again simple and sweet. The ensemble players appearing on them were either “B” or “C”-list actors, or those that became famous through daytime television i.e. soap operas. These movies fell into the category as “so-bad-they’re-good”, that resulted a holding toward a cult following.

Before long, mediums such as Lifetime started to air their own take on these TV movies. Later, other sources took advantage of the Christmas TV movie bandwagon, from Freeform, Ion, Bounce, UpTV, and countless others that brought on the seasonal sweetness to the pot.

And thanks to OTT television, one can stream their way where a viewer can partake on a binge fest of their own. Places such as Hulu, Amazon Prime, Crackle, and the giant of them all, Netflix, offers a vast selection of these same movies where they are available for the ever lovin’ 24/7 time period! Their lists are totally endless.

And why are these kind of feature length one-shot seasonal video programs hold toward their appeal? Perhaps they show a time, place, and characters that do not really exist in so-called “real life”. They are shadows depicting a fantasy world that could be real, but are not likely to really be found in the ways depicted. In the same tradition as a male demographic would find an action/adventure feature (especially starring comic book super hero types) as part of a fantasy world they can escape to, those that are of a female demographic can find comfort in a story that star those that look and act as themselves as they are finding the meaning of the season through joy, faith, and perhaps love. Comparing a special-effect laden action pix and a Christmas themed TV movie title may not necessarily be a fair line-up, but the ideas do exist.

So as the season progresses with such items that can be consumed on any electronic device that sports a viewing screen and can get internet access, The Holidays as they are presently labeled, will still prevail, just like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, and other days of the week that will all run as late as Super Bowl Sunday, although that part of the media landscape that is for another topic and for another article!
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NEWS AND REVIEWS

The Crown City Theatre presents for its alternative production, Jeff Goode’s THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES, that consists of the troupe of reindeer that speak about how Santa wasn’t very nice–but rather naughty!

Seems that Jolly ol’ St. Nick wasn’t much of a saint. In fact, the ol’ boy may have been involved with some actions that may be true–or not. Was Santa taking indecent liberties with the elves? Does Rudolf have a deep secret that we all should know about? The eight reindeer dish out on what’s going on at the North Pole. There’s Dasher (Neil Unger), the leader of the pack. If there is a scandal, he isn’t talking! Cupid (Michael Mullen) is a bit more fluid over what’s going on. He won’t hesitate to tell you that he’s gay and proud of the fact! Prancer (Michael Marchek) has gone Hollywood starring in a movie featuring his name. (Never mind the fact that the movie itself is only “ok”!) Blitzen (Kimberly Patterson) insists that “no” really means “no”! Comet (Eric Keitel) once ran around with a pack of bad reindeer. Santa saves his from a life of crime and drugs, so he’s backing up the man no matter what! Dancer (Valerie Lynn Brett) was once a dancer, but joined the reindeer team shortly after his dance studio was burned in protest of fellow reindeer dancers. Donner (Jeff Wiyzek) became part of the group in order to not speak about past event called the “Foggy Christmas” episode. Vixen (Megan Cochrane) accuses Santa over sexual harassment, and will indeed press charges!

This play by Jeff Goode was first presented some twenty years ago long when such scandals were coming to light. (Not involving reindeer through!) In today’s domestic society, talks and tales of sexual mishaps have been all over the place! This makes this series of monologues more timely than ever before! It develops through dark humor that becomes deeper as this show progresses. With a running time of just a little over an hour, “The Eight” speaks upon how it’s not all happy and gay (except for Cupid) up in the North Pole as one would assume!

The cast of eight play their roles as expected without being too “over the top”! Donning cloth antlers and a black nose, only one would know they are a set of reindeer that speaks the truth. Sonny Lira and William A. Reilly directs this show that is to the point, and of course, not for the kids! It may be The Holidays, but not everything that counts for the season is meant for the entire family–and rightly so!

THE EIGHT: REINDEER MONOLOGUES, presented by the Crown City Theatre, and performs at the Crown City Theatre space located on the campus of St Matthew’s Lutheran Church, 11031 Camarillo St North Hollywood, until December 23rd. Showtimes are Thursday nights at 8:00 PM, Friday and Saturday nights at 11:00 PM, and Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM. For tickets and for for details, call (818) 605-5685, or online at https://www.CrownCityTheatre.com

This production is running in repertory with CCT’s regular production of The Mousetrap. Visit the CCT’s website for more details on this program.
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The Zephyr Theatre presents the west coast premier of Neil Koenigsberg’s WINK, a comedy-drama of the friendship of two different people from two different backgrounds that hold a common bond.

The setting is Los Angeles-the summer of ’17. David Mingrino is Dario Villanova. He was a one time rising actor appearing in big-time features while winning awards for his craft. That was a few years before. Now he’s down to being on the “C” list. His long time agent Peter King (Adam Cardon) is offering a role in some slasher film that may bring him back into the spotlight. Dario himself has been in mourning over the recent loss of his housekeeper’s nephew as he drowned in his pool. When he isn’t working which has been often, Dario volunteers his time at a place that serves LGBTQ youth. One person he meets is a youth that is named Wink. (Andrik Ochoa). Wink is a young adolescent of mixed latinx decent that came from The Bronx, New York and lives where he can, usually inside of a cardboard box under a freeway overpass. Wink is gender neutral-not a boy or a girl–just Wink. Dario discovers that Wink is artistically talented, and loves 1950’s doo-wop music. This preference of music grants these two with a common bond. He eventually takes Wink under his wing as a friend. Manuel Ortiz (David Mingrino), a social worker at the LGBTQ youth center, sees this friendship as a bit odd, yet genuine. This form of bonding is enough for Dario to promise a major financial contribution to the center. But what is behind this friendship between a fading actor and a young person that isn’t a he nor a she? What will this do to his career? Will Wink become a whole person staying on the edge of being a male and/or a female? And how will Dario’s publicist Valerie Smith (Amy Argye) offer to the awaiting press over Dario’s personal and benefactory choice?

This play written by Neil Koenigsberg is a unique look of a friendship where backgrounds differ, yet strings of commonality keeps them together! Dario and Wink are not father-son types. They appear as a father figure and a young human. This method of a relationship gives this play a storyline that is unique and as noteworthy. The two leads, David Mingrino as Dario Villanova and Andrik Ochoa as Wink, play their roles with sincerity. Adam Cardon as Dario’s agent Peter King isn’t as stereotypical as media would portray an agent of his kind, although he really doesn’t understand his client’s choice of who to bond with! Euriamis Losada as social worker Manuel Ortiz is one that supports the community that are labeled with a string of letters that stand for something involving personalized sexual status, lifestyle, or identity. And Amy Argyle as Valerie Smith is an over-the-top publicist that knows how the Hollywood track works.

The play itself is just as dramatic as it’s comical as it’s heartwarming! It’s not sweet, nor it’s bitter. It’s expressed as a basic case study of a honest and trusting friendship. Michael Allen Angel direct this show as a story full of characters that desire to belong. Some with specific labels, and with one (Wink) who just wants to be Wink!

Special note goes to what’s seen on stage, from Pete Hickok’s set design (Just a few pieces of basic furnishings showing where the characters reside), to Katrina Pagsolingan’s projection creation that shows its backdrop through graphics and animation as cast upon the stage area’s artistically drafted back wall.

WINK is a play that treats those that fall within being LGBTQ with respect through the understanding that humans are humans. Granted, not all domestic setting may understand this fact. However, this point isn’t expressed nor emphasized in any overly fashion. It’s just an actor and a questioning youth getting together through their passion of oldies but goodies! (Ooo-WEEE-oooh!)

WINK, presented by Shanks74 Productions, and performs at The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue (east of Fairfax and west of La Brea) Los Angeles, until January 13th, ’19. Showtimes are Saturday and Monday nights at 8:00 PM, and Sunday afternoons at 3:00 PM. Added performances take place on Fridays, December 21st, 28th, and January 11th at 8:00 PM. No performances on December 24th and 31st.

For ticket reservations or for more information, call (323) 960-1055, or via online at http://www.Plays411.com/Wink
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The Santa Monica Playhouse will present their annual NEW YEAR’S EVE MUSICAL REVIEW, the self titled event that will celebrate the changing from the old into the new through music, song, dance, with doses of comedy.

Featured in this production are a selection of tunes and dance numbers that hold an eclectic range, from 1940’s-era jazz, country-rock favorites, Jewish patter songs, and even a romantic balled or two as presented by the Actors’ Repertory Theatre-consisting of Andrea Asnoff, Jacob Cooper, Chris DeCarlo, Tiffany Haile, Adya Mahanty, Evelyn Rudie, Elena Rust, Berkeley Sanjay, and Raeva Vasisht. A number of these performers has been seen in previous shows at the SMP, so it’s a “family reunion” of sorts that welcomes the new calendar year in high style!

And what makes a New Year’s celebration complete is all of the goodies that go along with it! Your evening includes a buffet supper, champagne/sparkling cider, and party favors that will guide everyone in attendance to slide from the old of ’18 into the new of ’19.

The SMP’s NEW YEAR’S EVE MUSICAL REVIEW will have two performances: 6:00 and 9:30 PM. The early show are for those that wish to partake the celebration a few hours before the stoke of twelve, or for those that wish to attend a second outside event. The 9:30 PM presentation will give those the moment to ring in the new year with the entire cast! And both shows are family friendly! Bring the kids of any age to partake in all of the festivities!

The Santa Monica Playhouse is located at 1211 4th Street (at Wilshire Blvd.) Santa Monica. For more information on these shows, call (310) 394-9779 ext 1, or visit the SMP online at http://www.SantaMonicaPlayhouse.com
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ACCESSIBLY LIVE OFF-LINE (C) 2018 Linear Cycle Productions. All rights reserved. The views and opinions are those of the writers, and not necessarily of the staff and management. ‘Nuff said!

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