Michigan Daily
December 5, 2010

Reindeer set the record straight on Santa's salaciousness in 'The Eight'


Don't feel bad about finding coal in your stocking this year - Santa Claus has even added himself to the naughty list.

In "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues," Basement Arts's fall season finale written by Jeff Goode, the idolized and peaceful environment of the North Pole is tarnished forever as Vixen, a reindeer who pulls Santa's sleigh, reports that Santa has been sexually harassing Rudolph. As the news spreads, reporters swamp the scene and each reindeer each reveals an account of the scandal, often veering off topic and focusing on their own issues.

"It's eight monologues, so it's funny - you don't get to see the reindeer interact at all," said director Emma Donson, a junior in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance. "At least from what I feel directing, you will know their relationships based on what they say and who they talk about. It's pretty known how they feel about each other."

In their monologues, the reindeer reveal their quirks to the audience as well as their underlying humanity, regardless of their fur and antlers. Comet is a reborn Muslim, Cupid proudly gay and Prancer a producer who worked on his own film, "Prancer." At the same time, Vixen's best friend Blitzen defends her in a press conference and Rudolph's father, Donner, painfully regrets selling Rudolph to Santa.

"Dancer ... is very skittish. She used to be a ballet instructor and she's a Jewish reindeer," said Ariel Sobel, a sophomore in the School of MT&D who plays Dancer. "When she first comes up for her interview, she talks about her vacation days and her sick days, but she only works one day a year."

Donson first performed Blitzen's monologue for Janet Zarish from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, who came to the University to speak with the acting program. Zarish's encouragement pushed Donson to produce the show for Basement Arts.

"She was really wowed and hadn't heard of the play or the material," Donson said. "I thought to myself, 'if she's wowed by this ... I think it's a good play to do.'"

Donson, an acting major, used Basement Arts as a gateway to experiment with directing, and found the Studio One atmosphere helpful for her show. Sobel has also found this space beneficial as an actress.

"I think especially with the monologues, they're pretty long and for me to connect with the audience and whoever I'm speaking to for that long amount of time, it's helpful to have that smaller space," Sobel said.

"The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" will include a variety of accompanying elements that will envelop theatergoers in the experience of the North Pole. Outside of the theater, there will be improv performances and decorative lights, as well as candy and hot chocolate available for purchase. In the holiday spirit, most of the proceeds will go to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC). Also, during the performance, alternative Christmas soundtracks from The Beach Boys to Fountains of Wayne will be playing, and the show will begin with a video twisting clips from old Christmas movies.

"I think it's important to entertain an audience even before they come into a space," Donson said. "I've sat hours waiting for a show to start, and you get frustrated and want to go in, and you want some sort of bang for your buck."

The set itself will bring the audience deeper into the North Pole, with many of the set materials coming from cast donations.

"I haven't been calling it 'load in.' Most people call moving into the stage 'load in.' I'm calling it, 'Hey, does anyone want to help decorate Studio One with me?' " said Charlotte Campbell, the stage director and a junior in the Schools of Engineering and MT&D.

"Essentially we're having a Christmas tree and there's going to be snow everywhere."

Being so close to finals week, the collaborators of "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" hope that the comedy can provide an entertaining break for busy students while helping them look at the approaching holiday season with a different eye.

"It's very different, it's very funny and it's really perfect because of the commercialism of Christmas and how we get stuck in this wonderful time of the year," Donson said. "There are a lot of people who don't love Christmas, and it's an interesting spin on something we don't normally think about."