Sault Theatre Workshop is trying to mount a second play during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sault Ste. Marie’s oldest community theatre group planned to stage Norm Foster’s Ned Durango Comes to Big Oak in October. But the planned production was spiked due to an Ontario government recommendation to limit social contact.
Now, a dinner show featuring a reading of Foster’s one-act The Christmas Tree is in the works in partnership with Algoma’s Water Tower Inn.
Performance dates at the pub are Dec. 3-5 with a possible extension Dec. 10-12 “if the demand is high enough,” said director Harry Houston. Maximum attendance is 50. A limited number of show-only tickets will be available. Only tables of two or four will be sold.
“People are dying to go out and do stuff,” Houston told The Sault Star. “People need activities.”
He hasn’t contacted Algoma Public Health about the show.
“I know the rules and what we’re allowed to do,” he said.
Daniel (George Houston) and Sonja (Wendylynn Levoskin) meet at a Christmas tree lot on Christmas Eve. They both pine for the last available Christmas tree.
Each conjures up tales of why the tree should go to their home.
“They go back and forth quite a bit,” said Houston. “By the end you’re not sure what to believe. They’re fun characters.”
Sonja and Daniel both want the tree, but they also appreciate each other’s cunning to bring the Christmas must-have home.
“When somebody tells you a lie, but it’s a really clever lie well put-together, it makes you think a little bit,” said Houston. “You can admire it because you know that you’re lying, too. The intrigue with most of Norm’s plays is you discover these characters and you find out more about them as you go along. But with these characters we don’t know if we’re finding out anything true or not because everything turns out to be just a story. That’s part of the fun.”
Houston will be on stage alongside his brother and Levoskin. He’ll read stage directions.
The Christmas Tree isn’t meant to be a big moneymaker for STW. Houston wants the show to keep his group “in the public eye.”
Sault Theatre Workshop presented a pair of Foster’s one-act plays, My Narrator and The Death of Me, in 2011.
Dinner shows are a rare event for the theatre group that formed in 1948.
Houston recalls Bill Manhoff’s The Owl and the Pussycat, with Keith Knight and Barbara Duffin, being staged at a downtown venue about 40 years ago.
More readings may follow in 2021 if The Christmas Tree “goes OK,” said Houston. His preference is to present a full-length play to audiences.
“If this is the way we have to go, then readings are OK,” said Houston, who remembers attending a similar evening of poetry, short stories and dinner in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., in the past. “It’s a performance of different kind, that’s all.”
But he’s yet to pick other scripts Sault Theatre Workshop could mount as COVID-19 continues in the new year. Bringing back Ned Durango Comes to Big Oak is a priority.
“We’ll start thinking seriously of shows once we get closer to the all-clear, but right now we’re just playing it by ear,” said Houston.
Dinner and show is $55. Show only is $20. Call Houston at 705-946-4081 or go to Algoma’s Water Tower Inn’s front desk.
On Twitter: @Saultreporter