Looking back at opening night of Odyssey Production’s interpretation of his two-act play, Last Christmas, playwright Neil Fleming said that things went very well.
“It was the first time I’d seen the new version, and I know what they’re up against – a small town with limited budgets and that kind of stuff, so I went into it with not super high expectations, but they were totally exceeded,” he said. “There were great performances.”
Having Fleming here added another level of stress to opening night on Friday, director Trent Gillepsie said before the curtains opened.
“To have him here is a great honour,” he said, adding that his main challenge in directing the play was to make sure the play’s emotional ups and downs were done to the greatest effect.
“It is funny, it has a lot of funny scenes, but it’s also emotional,” Gillepsie explained
“There are a lot of emotional and poignant scenes … The audience will be on a coaster, but then they’ll also have a moment to reflect.
“I think the challenge is in keeping that flow that I read, so that when Neil sees it and hears it I’ve done it justice.”
Fleming said that writing the play was an easy task, compared to other scripts he’s written.
The play debuted a couple years ago as a one-act in Calgary, so when an acquaintance in Prince Albert requested he double its length he jumped at the chance.
“I found some places in the first half where I could just expand on other things that existed, and to into further backstory,” he said.
They key thing that attracted actor Cara Stelmaschuk to the piece and her role as Debbie was the play’s realistic representation of family.
“You’re probably going to see your entire family at some point,” she said.
It was the first time I’d seen the new version, and I know what they’re up against – a small town with limited budgets and that kind of stuff, so I went into it with not super high expectations, but they were totally exceeded ... There were great performances - Neil Fleming, playwright
Having seen endless productions of A Christmas Carol and White Christmas, Fleming said that his goal in writing Last Christmas was to offer a “modern Christmas story that’s not very traditional.”
“I lean towards comedy, but more and more I get towards covering more serious issues, but I can’t help but throw some comic relief into there for flavour.
“If you can make people laugh and feel joy, and break their hearts at the same time, that’s way more rewarding than just the comedy or just the bleak drama.”
Proud of what the local theatre company was able to put together since they began rehearsals in September, Gillepsie said that Last Christmas is an ideal way of opening Odyssey Productions’ 21st season.
“(It’s) a brand new work by a Canadian playwright who has already won an award for a one-act version of this,” he said. “What I liked was how honest the play was.”
Last Christmas will be performed four more times, including three dinner theatres and one show only performance.
The show only performance will take place on Wednesday, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. and the show beginning at 7 p.m.
Dinner theatres will take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Doors for dinner theatre performances open at 6:30 p.m., with dinner served at 7 p.m. and showtime at 8 p.m.
Tickets are available at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre box office, at 142 12th St. W., or by calling 765-1270.
All performances will take place at the Carrefour Fransaskois auditorium, at 449 10th St. E.