Most people who had been on the board historically had not been keen on the concept, said Elizabeth Lord, president of the Prodigal Sun board. Most theater companies do it because thats the moneymaker. People who dont usually go to theater still go see the holiday show, like the people who dont go to church still go on Christmas.
We just never felt we needed it.
This year, though, Prodigal Sun is offering a holiday show, opening tonight. The show includes the Tony Kushner play Yes, Yes, No, No along with a David Sedaris monologue and a performance by Senior Services of South Sounds Forever Young Rock & Roll Choir.
While the play does include winter holiday themes, its not your standard Christmas fare and the choirs performance will focus on Christmas with a twist, including Joni Mitchells River and John Lennons Happy Xmas.
It is the most unusual holiday show Ive ever encountered, Lord said. I cant really call it a Christmas show. This is a play about hydrogen and guilt.
The show opens up with this scene that looks very much like a classic Christmas scene, with a shepherd being visited by an angel, said director John Ficker, but then they take that story and back it up. You have God in space discussing the future of the universe, and what he is describing is the Big Bang.
Its about the need for hope in winter.
Ficker has had a passion for the script since he stage-managed a production of it nearly 20 years ago when he was a student at Saint Martins University.
Ive had this script in my back pocket, looking for an opportunity to put it on, he said.
He was inspired by the theme and by the writing. Kushner is a noted playwright who wrote the screenplay for the current hit movie Lincoln as well as the play Angels in America, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize.
Fickers long-awaited opportunity came in part because the company wanted to raise money. He suggested the show as a fundraiser for Midnight Sun, the performance space that Lord manages for Prodigal Sun.
In February, the company began hosting fundraisers to raise both money for and awareness of the performance space, which was not bringing in enough money to cover rising rents.
The Suns situation is much better now, Lord said, but continuing fundraising seems like a good idea particularly because a decision was made to rent the place on a sliding scale.
To increase the number of renters, we lowered the rental rate, she said. In the past, we had increased it to cover the true cost of operating the Midnight Sun, but it scared away low-income renters.
The sliding scale is $150-$200 per night, far below the costs charged by other theaters in town, Lord said. Most groups renting the space are paying the $150 rate.
The irony of the financial motivation is not lost on the company.
We all kind of laugh about it, because we all mock holiday shows, Ficker said. Every theaters cash cow is the holiday show. I dont know that this will be our cash cow, but its definitely something different."