Nov 28, 2009

A Great Opening Night! Christmas Survival Guide

It was a busy day for the Cast of A Christmas Survival Guide yesterday. A KKTV newscast, last minute rehearsals and then a great opening night. Here are some great photos starting in the KKTV News Room to backstage (just before the show) to the wonderful cast party at the Pepper Tree Restaurant. Congratulations to the Cast and Crew for a great performance! Bravo!

Nov 27, 2009


A Christmas Survival Guide is a side-splitting, uproarious and charming revue that pokes fun at the stressful holiday season. Our characters, armed with a copy of A Christmas Survival Guide and an optimistic attitude, charge into shopping malls, office parties, and family gatherings in their search for the true essence of Christmas. By mixing comedic vignettes, a contemporary score of original music (‘The Twelve Steps of Christmas’, ‘Waitin’ for the Man with the Bag’) and classic songs (‘Silent Night’, ‘Jingle Bells’) these characters search for the true holiday spirit only to find that Christmas keeps getting in the way.

The 5 member triple threat cast includes Sharon Kay White, a two-time winner of the Denver Post Ovation Awards (in 2008, Best Supporting Actress, Dramatic Role for her work in the Arvada Center’s Hollywood Arms and in 2007, Best Supporting Actress, Musical, for her role in the Country Dinner Playhouse’s Guys and Dolls), Sammy Gleason (Cabaret, Beauty and the Beast), Marco Robinson (Brighton Beach Trilogy, A Christmas Carol) Halee Towne (A Christmas Carol, The Full Monty) and Carmen Vreeman (Sunday in the Park with George, Biloxi Blues).

A Christmas Survival Guide opens Friday, November 27 and plays through December 23 with performances on Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday* at 8:00pm and Sunday matinees at 2:00pm. Special Holiday performances have been added on Tuesday, December 22 and Wednesday, December 23 at 7:30pm. Tickets price range from $26 to $35. Discounts are available to FAC Members and Students. To order tickets call the FAC box office at 719-634-5583 or visit our website at *Saturday 11/28 performance is at 2pm only

Installing Bransby's 'History of Navigation'

Laurel Swab and Aaron Jakos installing Eric Bransby mural panelsWhen you enter the Fine Arts Center for the NASA ART program (opening Dec. 18), the first space art you’ll see is Eric Bransby’s The History of Navigation mural in the Glass Corridor. It depicts significant moments from seafaring navigation to the future of cosmic navigation. The mural was commissioned in 1968 and captures the excitement and energy of the space race. Eric was working on this sequence of paintings a year before humans set foot on the moon in 1969, yet sections of the mural predict current aspects of exploration such as an orbiting telescope like Hubble and future initiatives such as permanent settlement of the moon.

Laurel Swab and Aaron Jakos are pictured installing one of the eight panels. To best protect the mural, we decided to hang it a bit higher than we usually would. It is on loan from the Air Force Academy, and originally hung around the interior of their planetarium’s atrium – that’s why the panels are slightly curved. Eric has always been interested in making his murals an extension of the existing architecture, and although we have them hung on a flat wall, the curved panels create an unexpected visual dynamic. Another unique aspect that you’ll notice on the mural is that Eric also created actual depth in each image by raising parts of the surfaces. This epic mural really sets the tone for the rest of the exhibition experience!

— Blake Milteer, Museum Director, Curator of American Art and the NASA ART exhibition

Nov 25, 2009

Indy: Fine Arts Center puts on an irreverent holiday musical revue

Today the Colorado Springs Independent previewed A Christmas Survival Guide (opening this Friday), with insights from director and choreographer Michael Gold.

"Fast-paced and fun, according to Gold, Survival Guide features kooky characters and situations, including a naughty Mrs. Claus (played by Sharon Kay White, two-time Denver Post Ovation winner), a 12-step program set to "The 12 Days of Christmas," Elvis and his Candy Cane Girls, and a Jewish kid's Santa-fantasy-come-true.

"While the play is a far cry from Bob Cratchit rocking Tiny Tim in his arms, traditional Christmas songs do jingle alongside the show's original music, and some sentimental scenes balance the quirky ones. The clichéd message in the madness: Christmas is found within your heart. (Awww ... )"
Read the full article.

Nov 24, 2009

'Survival Guide' Video

Check out these video highlights from the FAC Theatre Company's production of A Christmas Survival Guide! The uproarious, grown-up musical revue opens this Friday, Nov. 27 and plays through Dec. 23.

Nov 19, 2009

Holly Anne Rawls - Lighting Goddess: When Santa Asked Me To Sit On His Lap, I Wet Myself!

Bah, humbug!

I have always been a bit of a Grinch about Christmas. With my first name being Holly, it was all the years of fellow classmates singing, “Deck the halls with boughs of YOU! Ha ha ha.” Or maybe it was all the relatives who told me, “Here is your Christmas and birthday present.” (A note of explanation: my birthday is on December 29th, so I often received double- duty gifts. Kind of a cop out, I think. I pity the poor bastards who had the misfortune to be born on the 25th.)

I was not always so Scroogey. I can remember a time in my early childhood when Christmas was a time of magic and fun. When I was three or four my godmother’s boyfriend snuck out of our Christmas party, dressed up as Santa, and appeared in the front yard with a sack of gifts. Of course, when he came inside and asked me to come sit on his lap, I promptly wet myself (and him) with excitement. I can remember setting out milk and cookies before bed and trying to catch Santa in the act. I always loved snuggling with my mother or grandmother in front of the lit Christmas tree and reading my favorite story, Santa Mouse.

But at some point (perhaps around age eight, my cynicism matured early) I began to dislike the holidays. The business of preparing for Christmas seemed to sully the event itself. So many cookies to bake, gifts to wrap, lights to string, parties to make appetizers for… All these activities moving towards the end result of a brief orgy of feasting and unwrapping. And then you gotta clean up all those dishes and mounds of discarded wrapping paper. A little depressing, really.
And then there is the over commercialization of Christmas. I know I am preaching on a well- worn topic, but if I were a foreigner looking at American holiday culture (as dictated by the media and shopping malls everywhere) I might think Americans were a misguided, gluttonous group of materialists who just might benefit from being bombed back to the Stone Age. For example, look at Hallmark’s tear- jerking commercials about 4”x6” rectangles of paper magically reuniting estranged mothers and daughters- I mean really! Or how about The Gap running politically correct holiday advertisements for garish sweaters by the first of November- P.S. No family is that ethnically diverse or skinny. Then there are our local Hobby Lobbys who set out trees, ornaments and other Taiwanese- made doodads in September- I was really close to burning that mother down when I saw Halloween decorations being moved aside for reindeer doorstops before the leaves had finished falling. When I am Queen of the Universe, there will be no advertisements, buying anything Christmasy, or playing of holiday related music before Thanksgiving. The Grinch has spoken.
At this point you may be asking yourself how in Yahweh’s name did this crank get to be the lighting designer for a holiday spectacular such as A Christmas Survival Guide? And, as addendum to previous question, what kind of hellish and scary things is she going to do to this lovely holiday show?
To answer the first question, because my boss asked me to. And I always do what he says.
The answer to the second question is a bit more complex. I had my doubts when I was handed the Survival Guide script. But my first meeting with director Michael Gold assuaged my fears. He acknowledged that Christmas could be a stress filled time of empty clichés, but he wanted this show to communicate the true joy of the holidays to our audience. His infectious and obviously heartfelt affection for everything Christmas made my heart grow two sizes that day. Survival Guide makes no attempt to hide the crass commercialization and often dismal depressions of the holidays; rather it gives them a gentle, laughing poke and moves on to what is really important about Christmas- family, togetherness, love and compassion. This show has so much heart. I am terribly impressed with the way Michael and the performers have made moments within the show that make the cynic in me smile. Set designer Chris Sheley and Props Mistress Jessica Rose have created an environment which feels so cheery and comfortable I kinda want to go a wassailing in it.

So, I have climbed aboard the Polar Express and developed a lighting concept that enhances the warmth and familiarity of the scenes as well as showcases the playfulness of the costumes (lovingly designed by Leslie Aldridge).

A Christmas Survival Guide does a fantastic job of spreading holiday cheer and love without leaving the viewer feeling sticky with false sentiment.
A big thank you to the production team for easing me out of my Grinchiness. I suppose we can listen to Christmas music in the shop, even though it is not yet Thanksgiving. And yes Chris, you can wear your Santa hat to work. Maybe we’ll even decorate the tree early this year.

A Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Nov 18, 2009

The Kirkland paintings are here!

Earlier this autumn, I worked with Hugh Grant, Director of the Vance Kirkland Museum of Fine & Decorative Art, to choose the paintings from their collection for an exhibition to be display in tandem with our upcoming NASA ART show. We put together a group of Kirkland’s nebulae and cosmic explosion paintings from the 1954 to 1980. Kirkland’s The Mysteries of Space exhibition includes 17 paintings that are astounding in their own right and that also tie some of the themes of the NASAART exhibition to Colorado art.

Kirkland’s paintings arrived last week and we are installing the works in our second-floor North Events Gallery over the next couple days. These are overwhelmingly beautiful paintings in which Kirkland was simultaneously pushing the limits of his art and of human exploration itself.

-- Blake Milteer, Museum Director, Curator of American Art and the NASA ART exhibition

Nov 17, 2009

How Do You Win Two Tickets to 'A Christmas Survival Guide?'

The Fine Arts Center Theatre Company has the perfect holiday gift for your family and friends. You can see the remaining FOUR shows in our 2009-2010 Season for the PRICE OF THREE! It's like getting a show for FREE. The remaining shows in our 2009-2010 season include:

A Christmas Survival Guide:
This side-splitting, uproarious and charming 'grown-up' revue pokes fun at the stressful holiday season. Nov. 27-Dec. 23.

Sweeney Todd:
Stephen Sondheim's Musical Comedy Thriller and winner of 8 Tony Awards. Jan. 22-Feb. 14, 2010

All My Sons:
Arthur Miller's poignant drama: A play for our time and for all time! March 19-April 4, 2010

Crazy For You:
A tap dancing, foot stomping extravaganza featuring the unforgettable music of George and Ira Gershwin. May 7-30, 2010.

You can win two free tickets to our current production of A Christmas Survival Guide by reading this week's E-Blast from the Independent. Click on this link:

The secret winning phrase is "Four Shows for the Price of Three"

To order tickets to our 'short season' call the FAC Box Office: 719.634.5583

A Christmas Survival Guide is a side-splitting, uproarious and charming revue that pokes fun at the stressful holiday season. Our characters, armed with a copy of A Christmas Survival Guide and an optimistic attitude, charge into shopping malls, office parties, and family gatherings in their search for the true essence of Christmas. By mixing comedic vignettes, a contemporary score of original music (‘The Twelve Steps of Christmas’, ‘Waitin’ for the Man with the Bag’) and classic songs (Silent Night, Jingle Bells) the characters search for the true holiday spirit only to find that Christmas keeps getting in the way.

Nov 14, 2009

Carmen Vreeman: Michael took 2 turns OUT of a number! What is the world coming to?! Thanks for the extra oxygen!

From cast-member Carmen Vreeman:
I grew up in the Chicago area and am the youngest of six kids. Christmas was always a very special time for my family, with feelings and traditions that no other holiday brings. Here are just a few of the traditions and favorite memories of Christmas that I grew up with:
~Buying the Christmas tree on the day after Thanksgiving
~Decorating the tree on a lovely evening: dim lights, old (sometimes falling apart) ornaments, hot chocolate, cheesy music (the Oakridge Boys), singing carols a capella by candlelight, and dancing.

~All 8 of us (parents included) piling into the old Ford van to go shopping for each other in Michigan late one night, which culminated in breakfast sometime between 3 and 5 am at a restaurant where the waitress remembered us each year.
~Christmas caroling at nearby nursing homes
~Taking trips downtown Chicago to see the lights and decorations
~Opening presents late on Christmas Eve night after a church service, wishing “Merry Christmas" right as the clock struck 12.
~Waking up on Christmas morning to the smell of homemade cinnamon roles and opening the stockings above the fireplace in the basement
~Knowing that we were all together

It’s certainly accurate to say that I do love all those Christmas clichés. When I think of Christmas, I reminisce about my childhood holidays in Chicago. But it wasn’t long before most of my siblings moved out, got married, and started new lives. Another change happened when I was 12 and we moved away from Chicago. Since then, I have spent Christmas seasons in New Mexico, Washington, L.A and Colorado. Sometimes I feel like nothing will ever beat my perfect childhood Christmases. I’m sure many can relate.

Last year at Christmas time, I was filling out college applications, preparing for auditions for schools, and dreaming about being away at a university somewhere east of the Mississippi for the start of the season and coming home for Christmas. But the year brought disappointment and a major change in plans, and obviously I am not away at college. In these months following graduation, I have struggled to dream and keep my goals alive. (And I think every artist can attest that when you’re not dreaming, you’re not thriving.) Then, miraculously- this show: a reason and spark to dream again. When I was offered a role in Christmas Survival Guide, I was ecstatic and terrified. Knowing that I would get to do my favorite thing in the world (performing, and not just another typical Christmas show) around my favorite holiday brought me goosebumps of joy. Yet, I knew a great challenge was before me. As one of the youngest in the cast, I worried about not having as much to give. But my fellow actors and friends have embraced me, quite literally, in affirmation of my gifts (some that I don’t get to use very often; for example, pointe) That’s not to say it hasn’t kicked my you-know-what. I think it’s fair to say that we all have been challenged, but for the best and so much fun. Being a part of this company and production has blessed me beyond belief. I can’t thank Michael and everyone involved enough for this opportunity.

This show: its content and the people I have been so privileged to work with have brought hope back. I’ve started dreaming again. As I’ve become more familiar with the meaning and characters within Christmas Survival Guide, I have become more aware of the fact that I am not the only who sometimes stops dreaming, or feels stuck where they are, or even dreads the holiday season because they know it won’t be what they expected. Some of my Christmases, like so many others’, have been dampened by many different elements: broken relationships, financial struggle, deferred dreams. And while we actors portray certain individuals in different circumstances, they represent thousands of journeys and feelings toward the Christmas season. I think everyone in the audience will see themselves in the characters on stage, comedic or dramatic. That’s part of the beauty of theatre: there is always some truth (and heart) even in the comedy and drama. It’s particularly poignant in this show.

Christmas happens in the middle of dreams and disappointments. It can also be a cause for both. My hope and prayer is that you will come to this show and participate from where you are in your journey- dreaming or dreading- and find the hope that Christmas can offer in the midst of the frantic rush of life... Hold on. Dream again and keep dreaming. Wait and hope with us. Christmas is coming. And it just might be the best one ever.
~Carmen Vreeman

P.S. A more detailed note about the process of the show: Tonight, Michael took 2 turns OUT of a number! What is the world coming to?! Thanks for the extra oxygen, Michael. J

Nov 12, 2009

Sharon Kay White: It's Very Strange Wearing A Tank Top, Singing Christmas Songs!

From cast-member Sharon Kay White:
Ahhh, Christmas. Who doesn't love Christmas? I have to say, as an actor, it's very strange to be wearing a tank top, singing Christmas songs in July, August, September...that's generally when an actor auditions for a Christmas production. But it does put one in a Christmas frame of mind. And oftentimes, doing those same old tired Christmas shows year after year can make any yuletide-lovin' gal a Santa cynic. But A Christmas Survival Guide is unlike any other Christmas show I've ever seen or performed in, and for that, I am grateful! Even though there actually IS a bit of cynicism (and a lot of humor) in the show, it is steeped in reality, and always brings you back to find the warmth and joy of the holiday season.

We're having a great time finding all of that with this show, and we hope to be able to share that with a lot of people this year! I figure that if WE'RE all laughing and crying during rehearsals, surely audiences will have a similar experience in seeing the show. I hope so, because it's a wonderful feeling. It's been a blast working with such a talented and dedicated group of actors, technicians, designers, administrators, and musicians. And what a bonus to be directed by my dear, darling friend, Michael....and even our shared commute from Denver has been a blast. What more could a girl ask for? Well, a date with Santa, I suppose.....see the show. You'll get the joke.

Pictured above: (Left to Right) Marco Robinson, Halee Towne, Sharon Kay White and Carmen Vreeman

Bret: The Sounds of Christmas

From Breton Parks Christopherson, The Ultimate Sound Designer: Tech week is the second most stressful week in any production. I usually make a list of things I still need to do, then check it twice. When it finally does come along, I love to see all the different pieces of the show come together. After tech week, the show's opening weekend is the most stressful time during a production. The night before opening night, I have trouble sleeping. I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, way too excited to sleep. Except in my case, I’m too nervous to sleep. I lay awake wondering if I've done everything I need to and hoping that everything doesn’t fall to pieces opening night.

As of right now I am actively organizing the pre show/intermission music and sound effects for A Christmas Survival Guide. I have been listening to so much Christmas music that I already feel the holiday spirit. The melody to “Here Comes Santa Claus” has been stuck in my head for the last week.

When Director Micheal Gold described his vision for the show as something that would stir up fun and warm memories of Christmas, I immediately pictured my family bustling around the house listening to our traditional assortment of Christmas tunes. In order to bring those memorable feelings to this production, I have included some of the recordings my family normally listens to. My hope is that this will make people think of their own family's personal connection with specific songs of the holiday season.

~Breton Christopherson

Nov 10, 2009

Leslie Aldridge: Cinnamon, Outerwear & Muppets. You gotta love a Costume Designer!


1. Cinnamon. How very lovely it is to walk into a department store and immediately your senses and brain thoughts are enveloped in the warm, familiar smell of cinnamon.

2. Outerwear. It is the perfect time of year to contrast the cloudy skies with a colorful pashmina or a pair of yellow rubber boots lined with a bright plaid print.

3.. A Muppet Christmas Carol. (no explanation needed.)

I SO appreciate the opportunity i have to design costumes for this wicked rad show. But more importantly, i feel super honored to be working with such a talented team of artists and performers. what a great show we have in our hands! it is well worth bringing your friends to and then going home to a nice cup of hot chocolate (with cinnamon of course!), while singing the songs from the show...which may get stuck in your head for days upon days...upon days.

This show is the complete christmas package, minus A Muppet Christmas Carol.

leslie a.

Nov 9, 2009

Halee Towne: It has been impossible for me NOT to connect with the heart of Christmas Survival Guide.

From Halee Towne: Actor, the one in the photo with the antlers ...

Every year I do my best to get in the holiday spirit; I watch Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol, eat monster cookies, stare at the lights on the tree, sing my favorite carols, and bawl when they play "Christmas Shoes" over the loud speakers at department stores, but sometimes Christmas comes and goes and I am left completely unmoved and unaffected. It leaves me feeling cheated somehow... all of the hype and buildup of Christmas and the "magic" of the season, and I miss it. There is a certain mystery about Christmas... sometimes it sinks in, makes sense and leaves you loving humanity and ready to tackle the brand new year that is ahead... and other times, it kind of lets you down and makes any pain you already feel about every day life 1000 times worse.

You never can tell what it will bring.

A Christmas Survival Guide deals directly with the mystery of Christmas and I am loving the process it is taking me through. Today, Marco and I rehearsed a scene where we are a couple in love, ready to spend our first Christmas together and how excited we are as we decorate our tree until we start realizing that Christmas means two completely different things to each one of us, and our day and tree are destroyed because of it. Sammy does a brilliant number where he is trying so desperately to love the season but he is never allowed to connect with it with all the chaos around him. Sharon Kay is left alone with her TV after a party, trying to reconcile her loneliness with the happiness she is supposed to be feeling this time of year. Carmen needs all of the the fruitcake and Santa and plastic reindeer and Johnny Mathis in order to experience the joy of the holidays. As we look to a book to find our answers to the millions of questions we have about Christmas, at the end, we are all left with the one question... what is Christmas all about?
I have loved exploring this question with the four FABULOUS other cast members, our director and musical director and the designers of this show. It has been impossible for me NOT to connect with the heart of Christmas Survival Guide.
What a gift it has been to me!

Nov 7, 2009

Ryan Neely: A Slave to the Costume Designer

For the past few weeks my position as assistant production manager has expanded to
include impromptu costume model. Although Leslie Aldridge’s costumes are fantastic and very colorful I do not appreciate being put into skirts and tutus. When I ask Leslie if she can please find someone else she says “Oh don’t worry about it you’re a perfect model even though you have skinny legs”

~Ryan Neely
Assistant Production Manager

Nov 6, 2009

Alan Osburn: I Dedicate This One To Ken

From Alan Osburn: As the Producing Artistic Director I have the wonderful opportunity to sit in on design meetings and watch all of these creative people continue to impress and inspire me with their passion and experience. I get to step into the room next to my office see costumes appear where a couple of days ago there was just some fabric. I can go to a rehearsal and watch these talented actors just come up with stuff that makes Michael’s face glow with wonder. But I also have moments of extreme sadness in dealing with very sensitive situations.

When Michael cast these five triple threats I couldn’t have been happier for him. But like the holidays, sometimes with great joy, there comes great sadness. I got a call today from Ken Robinson, one of the members of the cast. For those of you who saw The Full Monty he was Malcolm, the guy who sang Is This the Wind at the funeral in act two, which Ken did beautifully. Ken came to Michael and me a few days ago and told us he had hurt his knee outside of the rehearsal process. Today, after many trips to his physical therapist, his doctor, and after having an MRI, he informed me that he did indeed have a torn meniscus in his knee. With this being such a heavy dance show, and knowing that he would also have to dance on a raked stage, it was clear to me that the best thing for both the show and Ken’s health was that I would need to replace him. As a producer this is one of the hardest calls to make, especially with someone like Ken.

I don’t think most people have a true understanding of how deeply passionate performers feel about what they do. How euphoric they feel when they hear the sound of applause or laugher coming from the darkness just beyond the edge of the stage. Or understand the deep seated drive that actors have to finish the second act of a show, even when they just slipped on the stairs during intermission and cracked their head open and are covered in blood, as one of our Youth Repertory Theatre students (Alex Killan) did this past summer.

On the phone today Ken told me he would do whatever it would take to somehow still be in the show, which basically means he would have to ice, stretch, and heat his knee constantly, and still hold down a full time job, spending his evenings and weekends grimacing in pain, praying that no one in the cast or crew would see him because as he put it he “didn’t want the show to suffer.” We are very fortunate to have in the wings the very talented Marco Robinson who will join the company tomorrow. But for tonight, here’s to Ken, our first choice, our friend, and an inspiration to anyone who has ever had to play hurt for the good of the show.

#1: Ken peforming with Saturday Evening Post in The Music Man
#2: Ken playing the role of Malcolm in The Full Monty
#3: Ken in Sunday in the Park with George
#4: Ken in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change!

Nov 5, 2009

Jacyshyn: A little holiday carol, a little Elvis and a little Hannukah!

Today's entry is from Musical Director Roberta Jacyshyn:

A Christmas Survival Guide is just plain fun. There's a little holiday carol here and there, a little Elvis, a little Hannukah tune, moving ballads; all performed with style and grace by our talented cast of five. The five-piece band is set to be on stage, which is always a welcome addition to any show.

I am blessed to have the opportunity to lead the cast and band. Looking forward to merry holiday music making.

-- Roberta

P.S. The image is a Chris Sheley model of the set.

Nov 4, 2009

Gleason: "This show is the best. Period."

From actor Sammy Gleason, a member of the show's five-person ensemble...
Hey Bloggers,
Being a part of this show has been a blessing in disguise for me. At the beginning of this season I had not given A Christmas Survival Guide a second thought, or a first thought for that matter. To be quite honest, my mind was preoccupied with a very different show in the season line up. But when I received a call from the staff here at the Fine Arts Center Theatre Company asking if I would come and audition I thought “Why not?” So I went to the audition and danced and sang, read a few lines and generally had a very good time. I went home, and AGAIN I didn’t give it a second thought. Then I was asked to come in for a callback. “That’s weird” I thought. I went in, danced some more, read some more and sang some more, and I went home. When I got called for a third time, my interest was positively peaked. I went in and read again, I sang again, and I went home...again. Fast forward to the very next day and I was in full hunger mode -- I wanted this show. I was totally on PINS AND NEEDLES waiting to hear who had been cast. Having seen Michael Gold in last season’s “The Music Man” and having now auditioned three times for him, I was just itching for the chance to be in this show. To my utmost surprise and delight I was offered a part -- I even did a little touchdown dance! It’s funny how things come along when you’re not expecting them. I hadn’t planned on this, yet here I am working with some of the best in the business and having the time of my life. Like I said, it’s been a blessing in disguise and one of the best Christmas presents I’ve ever received.

My favorite part of the rehearsal process so far has been the dancing. I LOVE to dance! And Michael, being the Broadway veteran that he is, is just full of ideas when it comes to moving actors around the stage while they sing. There are leaps and shimmies; there are shuffles and splits (that’s my own fault). Feather boas and microphone stands as dance partners, and TURNS! OH how Michael LOVES the turns. In fact, one of his favorite pass times has been to say “…and I’m gonna add another turn here” just to watch our eyes get huge as we try to figure out how to do it without falling over! Then he giggles and shows us how it’s done, all the while knowing that he’s going to do that two more times before the night is over! But seriously, it’s a LOT of fun. And there is SO much dancing. This show is literally song after song after song with little break in between for scenes and dialogue. That’s one of the best parts of the show, but it is also one of the challenges. Any musical theater performer will tell you that hopping from one number to the next with little room for breathing is difficult and “Survival Guide” is no different -- I think the five of us are finally starting to realize how much work this show is going to be. Add to that all of the amazing choreography Michael has given us (and the TURNS!) and you can probably imagine what a ragtag, exhausted bunch we are at the end of rehearsals. Yet with that said, what other show lets you belt your heart out in a jazzy opening number, tap dance as one of Santa’s reindeer, bemoan the Christmas blues in a torchy Bob Fosse-esque tribute, AND sing beautiful ballads and familiar holiday carols in the span of about 90 minutes? NONE! This show is the best. Period.

OK, serious bit now. I have an amazing family and a whole bunch of wonderful Christmas memories -- this season has always been full of joy and magic for me. However, everyone can relate to feeling overwhelmed during the holidays and I am no exception. Not knowing where you fit, who you are, or what the whole thing is about is a very common holiday affliction and “A Christmas Survival Guide” is a show that deals with those ups and downs. Getting to work with this amazing group of artists has brought home to me the concept that Christmas is about being with family and friends. It’s not about what you give or what you get, but rather who you share it with. As long as you are surrounded by loved ones, you WILL experience the joy of Christmas.

So, welcome to the “Christmas Survival Guide” experience! You guys are in for an amazing time, full of fun, laughter and LOTS of heart. Now go buy tickets!!! Cheers!

-Sammy Gleason

Nov 3, 2009

Sheley: This process has been so rewarding; I'm wearing a Santa hat right now

Scenic Designer Christopher L. Sheley, who has earned awards from The Gazette, Denver Post and Pikes Peak Arts Council, takes his turn at blogging.
I remember, years ago, walking down Chicago Avenue with my then roommate Jay carrying a Christmas tree just selected from a vendor who was set up in an abandoned lot on the near north side of Chicago. We were bundled up, sipping lattes and laughing ourselves stupid. In the end, this became the inspiration behind my scenic design for A Christmas Survival Guide.
At the first production meeting, our director, Michael Gold, walked in and said “let’s make this fun and warm, easily recognizable to the audience with iconic Christmas images and warm memories." We then talked about sled riding, about picking out a tree, about shopping for gifts, about the smell of chestnuts roasting, about snow and all of the sense memories people often carry with them from year to year. We even talked about those memories we all have that are not so good, about the heartbreak and the loneliness that most of us have experienced at some point in our lives during the holidays. We put all of our ideas into the proverbial hopper, talked about the script’s needs, and as the meetings progressed it became clear we all felt we wanted the space to be warm and inviting almost to the point of actually roasting chestnuts.
In the end, this process for has been so rewarding and so upbeat that I am wearing a Santa hat even as I write this blog. Leslie Aldridge’s costumes are of a beautiful color pallet, Jessica Rose’s props…especially Santa’s puppet…look tight as always, Bret Christopherson’s sound effects are right on, and Holly Rawls’s lighting will have thousands of looks including some fifty strands of Christmas lights which I’m sure will offer a terrific warmth and glow to the whole show.
We watched rehearsal this past Sunday and the show has some remarkable numbers and characters. There is truly some big, big talent in this cast. And speaking of, Michael Gold’s talent and energy are always astonishing. His motor runs a hundred miles an hour (must be the sugar from all of his baked goods), and his passion and work ethic are terribly impressive. I have to say we are all very fortunate to have him here with us here at the FAC.
I must also say I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I have so much to be grateful for and so many loving and kind people with which to share the season. To Olivia and Holly…….I love you both more than words can describe. To the rest of you and the whole world….I wish you all the love and kindness your hearts can hold. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!
- Chris

Nov 2, 2009

Gold: "Not your typical Christmas show"

Find out what goes on behind-the-scenes of an FAC Theatre Company production. Starting today, the actors, designers, musicians and technicians of A Christmas Survival Guide will give you their insights on the creative process for this holiday show, which opens Nov. 27. Tickets are available online.

First up, Broadway veteran Michael E. Gold, the show's director and choreographer.

Dear Bloggers:

Merry Christmas and welcome to the FAC Blog for A CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL GUIDE! As Director/Choreographer, I invite you to meet the ensemble, musicians and staff of CSG and share your holiday spirit with us. We’re putting together a unique piece that will surprise and entertain you. We’re about halfway through rehearsals and it’s been a blast. We have assembled an ensemble of five actors/five musicians that are top-notch. Their energy and enthusiasm has made me approach this project and Christmas with a renewed spirit, which is the whole point of the show.

I promise you this is not your typical Christmas show. It’s refreshing for me to be a part of something new and for people to have an option this year that’s not a repeat from years past. It’s a unique approach to looking at the holidays, with all its joys and dysfunctions, through traditional and not-so-traditional songs, tap dancing reindeer, Elvis, a 12-Step approach and some of the most beautiful ballads you’ll hear this season.

I happen to love Christmas but it’s not always been so easy for me. Eleven years in New York away from home, loss of parents, relocating, performing on Christmas were all challenges that made each year different. Families, money, work, parties, food, loneliness, etc. all take a toll on us. But I am in a place in my life now that I treasure this time and look forward to it. This year I think we have a special gift for you.

So come have a laugh on us and really enjoy Christmas ’09 at the FAC. I guarantee you’ll more then survive!