BAT’s Holiday show is the comedy “Coney Island Christmas.” This is only the second year this script will be produced. It is being done in L.A., the Bay Area and Burien.
But why “Coney Island Christmas”? Let’s go back over a year. Cyndi from the Highline Historical Society came to BAT and said the Historical Society was bringing in a big exhibit, “Hope in Hard Times.” It is an exhibit about the hope found in the Great Depression. Cyndi asked BAT to do a Holiday show that would add to that exhibit, a 1930s Christmas show.
Sure, BAT thought. No problem. Then BAT started reading 1930s Holiday shows. BAT read a number of scripts. Most were horrible.
The WPA was a great deal, but its goals conflict with much of today’s theater needs. The WPA’s goal was to create employment. Quick scripts with huge casts. Many shows had 35 to 45 actors. Quick works do not necessarily create great works. Many scripts also had specific references that are lost in 2013.
Yes, there are few good scripts from the 1930s, but they are done every year by other Puget Sound theaters. BAT did not want to step on the toes of theaters that depend upon an annual show to make their budget.
So what to do? A somewhat protracted search turned up “Coney Island Christmas,” commissioned by Geffen Playhouse in LA in 2012. It was written by Donald Margulies, a Pulitzer Prize wining writer. However, the script had not been published, and the show opened to good, but not great, reviews. Of course, BAT’s production would be better than most.
How to get a copy of the script to read? BAT contacted Mr. Margulies’ literary agent. Upon request, BAT was sent a copy of the script to review. It was very promising, but it could use a tweak or two, consistent with the reviews from the 2012 premiere. It is not uncommon for an author to modify a script after its opening. This cannot be done once the script is published by a publishing company.
As BAT negotiated for the rights to produce “Coney Island Christmas,” it asked whether there would be a re-write of the script. There was one coming. This made it a little harder to cast the show because BAT did not know how extensive the changes would be. BAT did not want to cast someone in a role that would “disappear.”
As casting was underway the rewrite of the script arrived. The changes were right on, making the play even better, and BAT was able to cast all the actors needed without fear the character would “disappear.”
The show opens in the present day with a young Jewish girl complaining about Christmas. Grandma takes the young girl back to 1930 Brooklyn and “shows” her grandma’s experience as a young Jewish thespian playing Jesus at her school’s Christmas pageant.
The play is both very funny and very touching. It is easy to see why Geffen Playhouse is making this show an annual Holiday tradition. While the show will become a Holiday classic, don’t miss the chance to see this wonderful production at BAT this Season! TICKETS! (Don’t miss the great deals opening weekend.)
Keeping with the spirit of the Great Depression, help out. Please remember to bring some nonperishable food for those in need. A food donation also gets you $2 off your your full price ticket.