By Zach Hagadone
People often do a lot of acting around the holidays — acting like they love green bean casserole, acting like their career is “going great” when their father-in-law corners them for some subtly pointed conversation in the kitchen, acting like they didn’t hear what Uncle Jeff said after his fourth post-dinner rum and Coke.
What better way, then, to celebrate the onset of the holiday season than with live theater. For the second year, Unknown Locals and the Panida Playhouse Players join forces for Hearthside Stories — a double-header of one-act plays Thursday, Nov. 21-Sunday, Nov. 24 at the Panida Theater.
This year’s event features Thanksgiving Next by local playwright Becky Revak, who penned last year’s Jingle and co-wrote the original musical Christmas Carole in 2016, and True Believers — a “sorta-sequel” to the 2018 original play True Believer — by playwright, director and sometimes-actor Chris Herron.
Revak’s play centers on a family Thanksgiving gathering and a sibling who everyone thinks is now a clergy member.
Herron’s play stars local actor Ken Wood, reprising last year’s role as Santa Claus, alongside Herron and his actor/director/producer wife Madeline, with whom he has helmed the theater group Unknown Locals since 2014.
Portraying a couple “with serious doubts about this whole Santa thing,” Herron said the play asks, “Will the big guy be able to help us see the light before the curtain falls?” No spoilers here, but Santa may be a captive audience to these true believers’ doubts.
The plays run about about 40 minutes each Thursday-Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Hearthside Stories comes amid a healthy time for live theater in Sandpoint, as Cade Prophet Memorial Productions just finished a strong second season with well-received performances of The Laramie Project, written and first produced in 2000 by Moisés Kaufman, at the Heartwood Center in October.
“I think local theater is in a really strong place. There’s at least four different groups looking to bring various types of theater to the area with a variety of different tastes and styles,” Herron told the Reader in an email, citing Cade Prophet Memorial Productions, the Panida Playhouse Players, Pend Oreille Arts Council and Unknown Locals, which in its six years has produced almost 20 shows.
Herron recently enjoyed a major accomplishment in his playwriting career, when his first original play, the pitch-black comedy Quick Exit, was published by Heuer Publishing. (You can read more about that in the Winter 2020 edition of Sandpoint Magazine.) Meanwhile, he and other members of the local theater scene are enjoying what could be an ongoing feature of Sandpoint’s artistic season.
“Sandpoint has a mix of classic, contemporary and original productions, and now we have a potential annual tradition of holiday one-acts getting off the ground,” Herron said. “For a tiny little mountain town, that’s not so bad.”
Hearthside Stories • Thursday, Nov. 21-Saturday, Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, Nov. 24, 3:30 p.m.; $15 adults, $10 seniors and students. Panida Theater, 300 N. First Ave., 208-253-9191. Get tickets at Evans Brothers Coffee and online at panida.org.
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