Christmas with Actors Collaborative Toledo: An Unconventional Holiday

. December 5, 2017.
Jeffrey Albright and Marissa Rex in “Unchained.” Albright played Marley for years in the Toledo Rep’s production of “A Christmas Carol” – a part his character in "Unchained” was also known for portraying. Photo credit: Jeremy Allen.
Jeffrey Albright and Marissa Rex in “Unchained.” Albright played Marley for years in the Toledo Rep’s production of “A Christmas Carol” – a part his character in "Unchained” was also known for portraying. Photo credit: Jeremy Allen.

Actors Collaborative Toledo (ACT), known for more unconventional, outside-the-box kinds of Glass City theatrical productions, presents a December event for a more traditional audience.

Christmas with ACT will showcase three short plays, an evening of holiday cheer scheduled December 9 at Pam’s Corner on 10th St. Jeffrey Albright, president of ACT, says the event is “all ages,” unlike other ACT productions.

“It’s sort of the softer side of ACT,” Albright said. “All of the shows are family friendly. We’re usually known for doing more edgy stuff, but we thought of the holiday, something that people could bring families would allow them to just enjoy a nice, intimate holiday evening.”

The event will open in the lobby of the Davis Building, where hors-d’oeuvres will be served with traditional holiday music before the performance. “We’re going to present two of the plays in the lobby of the Davis Building, just across the hall from Pam’s Corner,” Albright said.

“We’ll move into Pam’s Corner where dinner will be served, and the third play, The Road to Nineveh, actually is set in a diner, and we’ll perform that play in the diner setting.”

Not your typical Christmas story

One of the first two plays, Unchained, is the product of 23-year-old local playwright Tanner DuVall. The show, a drama about a daughter trying to reconnect with her father as he suffers from dementia, is in response to Albright’s request that DuVall write a Christmas-themed piece on short notice.

“It’s a little bit more of a drama than your typical Christmas story, it’s not as light and fluffy as a Hallmark piece,” DuVall said.

“We had chosen three pieces to perform for Christmas with ACT. For one of them, I couldn’t obtain the rights (to stage the performance),” Albright said. “So I called Tanner, who I directed a few times, and I know that he writes. And I said, ‘I have a space for a short, Christmas-themed play. You can write it about anything you want. Are you interested?'”

DuVall, on domestic deployment for the Air Force, had time to kill and wrote the original draft in less than 24 hours. The show’s themes, about a lesbian daughter trying to break through with her staunchly conservative father, hit very close to home for DuVall.

“I had a gay brother who died within the last couple of years. And one of his biggest struggles was the church, and not being accepted by people. And the one thing that carried him through the years was Christmastime. It was a time of year where things didn’t matter and people put things aside and came together. And for some reason, that struck a chord with me.”

Other holiday experiences

Albright explained that, although Christmas with ACT is considerably more mainstream than ACT’s usual productions, the soul of the enterprise remains intact with this presentation, an alternative to traditional yuletide fare.

“Our goal is not to necessarily compete with all the other theaters in town, but to sort of augment them and do things a little bit differently, things that might appeal to smaller, more niche audiences,” he said.

“There’s more to Christmas than A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker. We are here to present other experiences.”

Christmas with ACT will take place December 9 at 7 pm at Pam’s Corner on 10th St. Tickets are $25. For more information, visit ACT419.org.