In a season saturated with Santas, snowflakes, and sleigh bells, rarely do the holidays conjure up images of hot-tub baptisms and teenage girls skinny dipping.
However, for the actors at Riverside Theater’s annual Walking the Wire, celebrating the holidays are more about strange hilarity than traditional festivities.
The performance is a collection of 12 monologues written by different playwrights from around the country. The strange, yet hilarious, subject matter ranges from an awkward instance in which two men are forced to share a small motel bed on Christmas Eve to a professional regurgitater participating in a hot-dog eating contest.
Walking the Wire will open at 7:30 p.m. today at Riverside Theater, 213 N. Gilbert. Admission ranges from $12 to $26.
Director Ron Clark said the writing and performance will be particularly memorable this year.
“Arguably, this is one of the best, if not the best, acting companies we have put together,” he said. “We have 12 fantastic actors, all of whom have pretty amazing credentials.”
There is something deeply special about the medium in which the actors tell their stories, he said.
“The one thing that happens in this show artistically is that the audience sees the most basic form of theater — just one person stands before them with a story to tell,” Clark said. “[The actor is] up there without a net — it’s just you, you’ve got no bells and whistles to support you, you have no other actors to catch you if you fall.”
Along with the show’s acting talent, he said, the stories themselves are “extremely moving, funny, and compelling.”
“[The monologues] were chosen because they have the ability to move an audience either to laughter or to tears or to some really deep reflection,” the director said. “Some of these characters are straight, some of them are gay, some are disaffected from their family, some are living on the edge, and some seem to be pretty normal people with big, dark secrets underneath.”
Janet Schlapkohl, one of the writers, will perform her piece about a experience in which she attended a veterinarian-school holiday party with a permanent that made her look like a poodle.
She grew as a performer and storyteller through Walking the Wire rehearsals, she said.
“[Clark] was very generous as far as his time and his commitment to the writers and allowing the writers to have a great deal of liberty with the style and the portrayal of the pieces,” she said.
But Clark emphasized that the heart of Walking the Wire is more than just the trivial and witty experiences that make up the mosaic of holiday memories — it is about the a common thread of humanity, when someone gets up and tells a story on a very human, very personal, one-on-one level.
“When you have a storyteller tell you a story, you feel like he or she is talking to you,” he said. “It is a wonderful reaffirmation of a common humanity.”