WT Productions's annual holiday show returns with 'Seasonal Bags' Dec. 2-11
WT Productions continues their "Seasonal" tradition of presenting six original short plays that take Christmas and the winter holidays to look at them from different perspectives. "Seasonal Bags" is their fifth "Seasonal" production that blends light comedy, dark comedy, and drama.
The current show, like the ones that preceded it, is written, produced, and directed by Debbi Dennison (Streamwood) and Carl Zeitler (Glen Ellyn).
"Seasonal Bags" features a cast of Mark Brewer (Mt. Prospect), Gail Cannata (Aurora), Dennison, Katelyn Lane (Chicago), Stephanie Turner O'Kelley (Lombard), Stephen Pickering (Fox River Grove), Kate Roberts (Lockport), Nikolai Sorokin (Wheaton), Erick Sosa (River Grove), and Zeitler.
"Our 'Seasonal' shows are different than your typical holiday show because, first, our material is all original. We are telling stories that the audience doesn't know, and therefore, they don't know the outcome either," Dennison explained. "Second, we feel strongly that the holiday season isn't always a happy time of year for everyone. So we like to explore all emotions, experiences, and characters of the season. Third, our finale is a 'mashup' of the previous five pieces. The five worlds collide in a new story. Little did we know when we tried this out the first year that it would end up becoming our 'Seasonal' signature style."
"Seasonal Bags" will be performed in six performances on Dec. 2-11. Friday and Saturday performances begin at 8 p.m.; Sunday matinees begin at 3 p.m. All performances take place at the new STC Theater. Previously, the "Seasonal" shows were all performed at Vero Voce Theater. The venue has changed its name, but the location remains the same at 3755 E. Main St. (Route 64), Suite 158 in St. Charles.
"I'm excited that a new theater is out there in the world. I'm grateful that Tara Frost of STC Theater partnered with us to continue the 'Seasonal' tradition," Zeitler said. "The world needs more theater, not less."
WT Productions was founded by Dennison and Zeitler, and they began these "Seasonal" shows in 2017 with "Seasonal Ties." In 2018, it was "Seasonal Bows," followed the next year by "Seasonal Wraps."
After the pandemic closed theaters down everywhere for over a year and a half, the tradition resumed in December of 2021 with "Seasonal Tags."
Sosa was part of the cast of "Seasonal Tags" and he returns this year. He had seen earlier shows as an audience member.
"'Seasonal Bags' is different from other holiday shows in the uniqueness and originality of each story. All have a Christmas or holiday theme, but the characters and storylines are original, distinct, and differ from what you usually see," Sosa said. "Year after year, Carl and Debbi come up with something new and they don't repeat or copy from previous years."
"Seasonal Bags" begins with "In Cahoots," written and directed by Zeitler, which portrays the lengths people will go to in order to win a Christmas-themed competition. The second play of the show is "The Last Noel," written and directed by Dennison.
It deals with an anxious woman who spends Christmas Eve on a meaningful park bench and encounters a stranger who is more familiar than she realizes. The first act ends with "Misfit Camping," written and directed by Dennison and Zeitler, and it shows what happens when cousins gather for an annual holiday camping trip that will certainly go down in history.
The second half of the show begins with "Rise and Shine," written and directed by Zeitler. The play looks at two siblings reliving memories of their recently deceased mother with the help of an unexpected visitor during the holidays.
The fifth play of the show is "The Bagged Wrapper," written and directed by Dennison. This one deals with two local celebrities who conceal their identities to go "bag-to-bag" in a wrapping competition on local TV's hottest show. The finale of the production is "Mixed Bag," written and directed by Dennison and Zeitler. The entire cast will appear as plotlines and characters from all the other plays connect with one another.
While some actors have appeared in several of the "Seasonal" shows, it's just as common for new actors to join the mix each year.
For "Seasonal Bags," three actors of the 10-person cast are brand new to these productions.
"It's always a sign of growth if theater groups include new people. We feel energized when actors we've worked with or known from other projects come into the fold," Zeitler said. "We had seven new cast members in 'Seasonal Tags' and it was a perfectly harmonious production. Everyone got along so well. This year's cast has that same vibe."
Sorokin is in his first "Seasonal" show and is enjoying the experience. "'Seasonal Bags' is so fun because it incorporates so many genres in ways that many other shows can't. Just in this one show, I have parts with comedy, drama, and a little bit of horror. Also, the finale wrapping everything up (pun intended) is so unique and left me reconsidering the whole show in ways that I have never seen in a play before," he explained.
"We are fortunate that we cast a lot of seasoned actors that aren't afraid to take risks or try things. It's so exciting to work with an actor that comes in with many ideas for his or her character," added Dennison. "Sometimes they bring in an idea that I had never thought of, and it works better than I originally imagined. Many of our actors are also directors themselves, so they are excellent at making suggestions for movement on stage. I don't like treating actors as puppets but prefer to look at them as collaborators."
Pickering is one of those seasoned actors, having acted and directed at a variety of venues in the area. He is appearing in his third "Seasonal" production. "I really enjoy working with Carl and Debbi as both writers and directors. They give us insights into the characters and stories that actors don't get when working on some of the more 'traditional' plays you find in the season. It really helps me focus in on the characters I'm developing," he said.
Tickets are currently on sale for "Seasonal Bags." Tickets are $20 each. Tickets and additional show information are available at wtproductions2.weebly.com.
"Seasonal Bags" is appropriate for PG-13 audiences due to language and content. Free parking is available at STC Theater.
Dennison reflected on what she enjoys about the "Seasonal" process. "I love putting a twist on traditional holiday stories, themes, or characters. I love thinking outside the box but yet keeping the emotion real. And I absolutely love writing the finale! It's my favorite Seasonal thing to write because it turns into a game to figure out how to make these five worlds collide and make sense."
Members of the cast were asked in which of the short plays they don't appear would they like to perform.
"I wish that I was in 'In Cahoots!' The writing is hilarious and the characters are all real types of people that we see in our lives, giving this short play a real sense of relatability," Sorokin replied.
"I wish I could be in 'Misfit Camping.' Just the thought of going camping with my own family makes me appreciate (and laugh at) the family dynamic of these cousins," Sosa added.
"It may seem a bit trite to say 'Gee, I'd like to be in all of them!' But in this case, it's absolutely true, because they're really good! The plays I'm in this year are more comedic, and I suppose I'd love to be in some of the more heartfelt plays that are part of this year's Seasonal show," Pickering said. "Both the lighter and deeper moments are so well written, who wouldn't want to be a part of them?"