Holiday comedies wrap up season

Jordan Beck

While many NMU classes and groups have begun to wind down for winter break, the theater program is gearing up for some funny stuff to finish the semester. Over the next few weeks, the J.P. Black Box Theater will present two holiday-themed plays, “The 12 Dates of Christmas” and “The Santa land Diaries.”


While “12 Dates” and “Santaland” both focus on the holidays, each offers a different take on the season. “Santaland” (starring Brian Dettman, Jill Vermeulen and Taylor Kulju) is an adaptation of David Sedaris’ essay about his early days spent working as a costumed elf at Macy’s.

Meanwhile, “12 Dates,” starring NMU senior and theater and writing major Meghan Marquardt, is a romantic comedy which tells the story of Mary, a woman who breaks up with her fiance just before Christmas.

Marquardt said she had known for a while that she wanted to do a one-woman show for her capstone project, and that “12 Dates” seemed like a perfect fit. Though she had appeared in NMU shows since her freshman year, this is the first time she’s carried an entire show on her own.

“It’s been a little crazy,” Marquardt said. “It’s definitely been a process. There’s no one to lean on but yourself. And it’s an interesting script, because Mary sometimes ‘becomes’ the people she’s talking to. So you have to learn how to embody multiple characters.”

Both plays also share a director, NMU’s Director of Theatre, Ansley Valentine. Valentine said  while his plays often feature larger casts than those appearing in “12 Dates” and “Santaland,” his role in the process hasn’t changed much.

“It’s easier to schedule rehearsals, since you only have one person’s schedule to worry about, but it’s mostly the same outside of that,” Valentine said.

NMU’s 2012 production of “Santaland” was also a previous capstone project, but positive feedback from theater patrons convinced them to produce the show again, Valentine said.

“We did it last year as a senior capstone for Jacob Barbot, and it was so well-received by the audience that we decided to bring it back again this year as a somewhat larger production,” Valentine said. “It’ll be on the main stage this year.”

Valentine said while “12 Dates” and “Santaland” feature small casts, that doesn’t mean that their production values are similarly low-key.

“It can get pretty extensive,” Valentine said. “With ‘12 Dates,’ there’s a lot of interplay between the text and particular Christmas songs, so there’s a lot for the sound designer to do. For ‘Santaland,’ there are several transitions between different parts of the story, and music can really help with that.”

Marquardt said her primary goal with “12 Dates” was to present an enjoyable, funny show that audiences could become truly engaged with.

“Just come prepared to laugh,” Marquardt said. “I want everybody to have fun. ‘12 Dates’ is very much a romantic comedy, and it’s been interesting learning how not to take myself too seriously on stage.

“It’s a nice, lighthearted holiday show, with a good dash of holiday cheer as well,” she said.

Valentine said if people are looking to mix up the standard holiday fare, these fit the bill.

“They’re both really funny shows,” he said.

“12 Dates” will be performed at the Black Box Theater on Thursday, Dec. 5 and Friday, Dec. 6. “The Santaland Diaries,” also in the Black Box Theater, will run Friday, Dec. 20 and Saturday, Dec. 21. For more information, call the NMU Ticket Office at (906) 227-1032.