Over the years, many people have asked me how my odd sense of humor came to be. Of course, some of the credit/blame falls on my parents, but so much of it came from another source. On so many weekends, my sister and I would get our parents to take us to Blockbuster Video to rent VHS tapes of the Marx Brothers. Oh, the Marx Brothers… they only made sense when absolutely necessary, but you still could find layers in their humor. From the wit and verbal jabs of Groucho to the wisecracking foolishness of Chico and the sweet pantomime of Harpo, these brothers helped form my humor from a very early age.
In December of 2014, I went to the Alchemist Theatre to see a brand new, five-person show by my old friend Jason Powell. I hadn’t read anything in advance about this Elfish Reasons show, so I didn’t know what the show was about. Almost immediately, a performer came on stage dressed as a Christmas elf Groucho Marx! Then we got to see Jason himself as Chico! And look – Harpo too! I feel as if I owe an apology to anyone else that was in the theatre that night. I have never been a subtle laugher, and I worry I may have ruptured an eardrum or two with my uncontrollable guffaws.
This year, Christmas came early and I was tasked with bringing the new expanded version of this wonderful musical to the stage at Waukesha Civic Theatre. This has been a monumental task (as I’ve directed only one musical, and never a show with more than 14 people) but also a monumental joy. Working with this cast and this crew to bring purely silly holiday frivolity to the stage is a privilege I may never be able to match.
This is a sweet show. It is about caring and joy and love beyond the jokes and jibes. It is also about sitting back in a theatre and laughing with a whole room full of people. There are no great lessons from a ghost of Christmas future, but this show offers a chance to laugh and smile with those around you and those you love. For me, that is the true meaning of Christmas.
Thank you for coming, enjoy the show, and hail, hail Fredonia!
As Andy Williams said, “It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year.” And in the words of Blues Traveler, “If it’s Hanukah, or Kwanzaa, Solstice Harvest, or December 25th, peace on earth to everyone, and abundance to everyone you’re with.” I love this season, and I love WCT’s tradition of presenting an affordable family show for the community to enjoy. This season we present a hidden gem by local playwright/composer Jason Powell: For Purely Elfish Reasons, a holiday show with great characters and a story line that gives a respectful (and hilarious) nod to the Marx Brothers.
Our Spotlight On The Future Campaign is coming to a close. This major gift campaign has a goal to raise $750,000, providing capital for upgrades that will enhance the theatre experience, increase advertising revenue, decrease operating expenses, and provide for building maintenance. So far we have raised 47% of our goal and have already put these donations to good use. A new HVAC unit, our new lighting catwalk, our new retractable movie screen and projector (join us for our December movie, How The Grinch Stole Christmas), a new sound board for the Mainstage, new sound and lighting equipment for the Studio Theatre and Rehearsal Hall, and our new LED marquees and window displays. We still need your help. If you haven’t given to the Spotlight On The Future campaign yet, please consider a year end gift! If you already have given, thank you, and please consider an additional gift to help us reach our goal.
And remember, if you’re looking for a good gift to give this season, consider our Festive Flex Four For $64 or a gift card … wonderful gifts of theatre to share with anyone! Happy Holidays!
Managing Artistic Director
The Waukesha Civic Theatre is a hidden gem right here in historic downtown! I’d like to welcome you to For Purely Elfish Reasons, the third Mainstage show of our historic 60th season. We are thrilled to present this new gem, by local playwright Jason Powell! Opportunities like this are one of the things that make WCT’s quality, live entertainment not just another night at the theatre. With such a wonderful, professional venue for our local talent, I’m honored to be a member of the Board. Yet, surprisingly, there are still some people who don’t know of this entertainment gem centered right here on Main Street! Please spread the word about our very own cultural cornerstone!
Between the Mainstage, Random Acts, A.C.T., Friday Night Live, Special Events, and our community partnerships with ACAP, the STEM Academy, Waukesha Reads, and others, we have a plethora of different entertainment options running year-round! Our special events – such as Festival Of Fools in April – provide entertaining and fun ways to support the theatre. We also have outreach programs like anti-bullying workshops, the Civic Broadway Singers, the Civic Senior Players, and many more! Our theatre arts education program offers classes at WCT and extends beyond our doors to teach kids in local schools. Likewise, we partner with Carroll University and UW-Waukesha for students of all majors to intern in our office or with our classes.
That’s right, we’re not just for actors! Whether you can pound a hammer, program a computer, alphabetize a file cabinet, or perform an aria, there are plenty of ways to get involved almost every day of every week. So spread the word!
You are also invited to join the celebration of Waukesha Civic Theatre’s proud achievement of providing challenging, enriching, and entertaining opportunities for 60 HISTORIC SEASONS. Having reached this elite DIAMOND status, we ask you to help us look to the future with your support. Without the generous support from our guests, we could not continue to provide these great services to the Waukesha County community and beyond. Please consider a donation today. Thank you!
I look forward to seeing you, and let me know what you think!
Board Of Directors
For Purely Elfish Reasons has a kind of strange pedigree, as I keep on adapting it for different audiences and venues. It was originally written for an audience of very little children, commissioned by a company that then dissolved before they could produce it. I rewrote the show, adding brand new songs, years later for a six-person ensemble in Bay View’s Alchemist Theatre. (And those six people included the director, stage manager and accompanist, all of whom also played characters in the show and two of whom were me.) This third iteration was customized once again to fit the specifications of a big holiday show at Waukesha Civic Theatre, with a much larger list of characters and twice as many new original songs. I’m very grateful to WCT for allowing this now full-length original musical to continue its slow-but-steady evolutionary path.
Through all of the show’s permutations, the premise has remained consistent. I love the holidays and I love the Marx Brothers. Of course I love other things too, but the comedy of Groucho, Harpo and Chico has something else in common with Christmastime in my brain: They are things that I enjoyed a lot when I was a child AND which I still enjoy today. The holidays to me are all about family – both young and old. So when I found myself in the position of writing a Christmas comedy, it made sense to me to look to the comedians whose humor appealed to me as a young child and still appeals to me as an adult.
When I watch old Marx Brothers movies, I’m in awe of how timeless the material seems. Granted, some of the topical references sail right past my head, I’ll admit that. But their sense of timing, their playful use of language, the absurdity, the physical comedy … those things haven’t aged. It all feels very fresh to me…it’s “classic,” in the best sense of the word.
The idea of recasting the Marx personae as Christmas elves seemed a natural fit, to my mind. I learned after I wrote the show that one of the last projects that Chico, Groucho and Harpo worked on together was a sitcom pilot in which they all portrayed heavenly angels (complete with halos that looked like giant bagels, which Harpo ends up snacking on just a few minutes into the story). So I guess my impulse to cast them as characters from a Christmas song wasn’t too out of the box. It’s just that instead of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” I went with something more out of “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
And from that impulse came For Purely Elfish Reasons, a show in which every single character is an elf who either works in Santa’s workshop or used to…including the Marx stand-ins Jules, Dolly and Lonnie (you can look up the brothers’ real names if you’re curious about those source of those handles). That was the other thing that appealed to me about the premise…I’ve seen shows that featured Christmas elves among the cast before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in which EVERY single character had pointy ears. Maybe it’s the Leonard Nimoy fan in me.
In combining the Marx Bros. with the North Pole, my “Christmas wish” is that Elfish has something for everybody. Certainly if you’re a fan of movies like Duck Soup and Night at the Opera, you’ll find some nods and winks, and some redux versions of a few classic sequences to make you smile. But ideally, I very much hope the show also taps into something timeless and classic, so that even if you’re completely unfamiliar with those old films, you’ll still find yourself tickled by the same things that bring a grin to my own lips…Not just the gags and punchlines and slapstick, but also that ineffable holiday spirit, that uniquely Christmas-y warmth that always gives me “comfort and joy” at this time of year.
Please enjoy the show!