There’s no doubt the holidays this year are going to be both familiar and totally different as the country struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arvada Center is embracing that dichotomy with …
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There’s no doubt the holidays this year are going to be both familiar and totally different as the country struggles with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arvada Center is embracing that dichotomy with its holiday theater options, which are emblematic of the new approach arts organizations are taking to connect with audiences and get innovative at the same time - “The Family Tree” and “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.”
“A Child’s Christmas” is a radio play that premieres on Monday, Nov. 30 and is available through Sunday, Dec. 27; after you purchase a ticket you can access a Vimeo link of the play, and it can be streamed as many times as you want through the 27th.
The show is an adaptation of a piece from Welsh author Dylan Thomas by Philip Charles Sneed and The Foothill Theatre Company. That stage adaptation has been adapted for the radio format by Emily Van Fleet and movingly brings audiences into the mind of a young child during Christmas, along with all the idyllic wonder that makes the season the best time of year. Those in search of the beauty of Christmases gone-by won’t want to miss the show.
Playwright, actor and improviser Jessica Austgen does something wholly different with “The Family Tree,” which is a live, virtual play that airs at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, from Dec. 2 through 20. The show makes uses of the technological and social developments we’ve all become familiar with during the pandemic to paint a picture of a modern Christmas. It follows one Colorado family as they try to have a happy holiday during these unusual times.
“My husband and I were participating in - and seeing our friends doing - staged readings and other livestreams during the lockdown, and it got us thinking about what makes these performances still theater,” Austgen explained. “The audience is what makes all this matter and we wanted to honor the fact that they’re there, even if they’re on the other side of a screen.”
Directed by Lynne Collins, the show features family members virtually interacting with each other from their different locations. Viewers can follow along with their favorite characters into breakout rooms, which helps bring the characters’ relationships and stories to life. Austgen said the aim was to create that feeling when there’s a big group of people, and you’re talking with one group while something entirely different is going on with another that you’re not part of.
“With the breakout rooms, we basically packed three miniature acts into one act. So, while everyone gets the overall plot of the play, you’ll follow who interests you and get their story,” she said. “Audiences will be able to have unique experiences based on who they follow and can come back another night to get a different story.”
This unique set-up required actors to work with Collins and the creative team to create stages in their homes, which helps make the story and characters feel entirely real and what they’re going through extremely relatable.
“Audiences might be closer to theater actors than they’ve ever been,” Austgen said. “The show is a family comedy about missing loved ones and the family squabbles we all have. All of that will be on the screen, and we think it will be a strangely intimate and connecting experience.”
Tickets for both productions can be purchased at www.arvadacenter.org.
Invite the Griswolds over for Christmas
Get the stories behind “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” at A (Virtual) Christmas Vacation with the Griswold’s: An Evening with Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, livestreaming at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 28. The actors will share fan-favorite clips from the movie, reveal their favorite memories from the making of the Vacation franchise and answer questions in a live audience Q and A session.
Get tickets for the event at www.paramountdenver.com.
Clarke’s Concert of the Week - The Hold Steady’s Massive Nights
The Hold Steady is one of the best live bands we have, and they’ve remained so for essentially the entirety of this century. Even though they won’t be able to continue their annual holiday “Massive Nights” run of concerts from the Brooklyn Bowl in person this year, they will still be doing their thing and livestreaming it. The performances will be at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 4 and Friday, Dec. 4, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 5.
Visit https://fans.live/ to get tickets.
Streaming style - ‘The Liberator’
There are a lot of ways to tell a soldier’s story, and over the decades since World War II, we’ve seen many of them. But the four-episode series “The Liberator” uses Trioscope technology to create a vividly animated version of the story of Colorado’s own Felix Sparks and what he experienced during the war.
Sparks’ Thunderbird group — which included Native Americans, Chicanos and white cowboys - were among the first to see the crimes Nazis committed at Dachau when they arrived at the concentration camp in late April 1945.
The show is both innovative and moving and can be streamed on Netflix.
Clarke Reader’s column on culture apears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.
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