Tulsa World
December 8, 2011

'The Eight: Reindeer Monologues' tells adult reindeer tales

By JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer

A certain well-known holiday song begins with, "You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid and Donner and Blitzen ..."

If Jeff Goode's "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is to be believed ... well, everything you might think you know about Santa's eight tiny reindeer - and Santa himself - is about to be shredded like so much tinsel.

Theatre Pops is presenting this decidedly adult look at life at the North Pole this weekend at the Tulsa PAC.

It seems that Santa is not the benevolent, fatherly figure of story and song, legend and logos. And now, a scandal involving the red-nosed Rudolph has bubbled up through the polar ice cap, and each of the reindeer is determined to have his or her often graphic say as to what is really going on way up north.

"I had seen this show when the people at the Nightingale Theater did it about five years ago," said Theatre Pops artistic director Randall Whalen. "I thought it was a great show, and when we started talking about doing a show during the Christmas season, this was the first thing that popped into my head.

"We knew we didn't want to do something traditional, and this show certainly fit that criteria," he said, laughing.

While there are aspects of the stories the reindeer tell that fit together into a whole, "The Eight" is still very much a series of monologues - a single actor alone on stage, creating a character and a world through words.

"As a director, it's easier for me because I only need to work with one actor at a time," Whalen said. "One thing that I always tell the actors is that they aren't really all alone on stage - that the audience is really the second character.

"When you realize and understand that, it makes performing a little bit easier," he said. "And it creates this sense of intimacy and immediacy."

Some of the performers in "The Eight" have their own ideas about monologues.

Freddie Tate, who plays Cupid, the most flamboyantly gay reindeer in the herd: "The monologue is a curse and a blessing. I never memorize lines - I try to find the character and the lines (which are there in my mind) come to me as I interact with the others. This is very different. I have really bad stage fright that gets worse when I'm the only one on stage. That's why I wanted to do this show - it's a monologue, and I will be on stage by myself. On the plus side, I haven't been in full-fledged comedy before, so I'm excited about that."

Valerie Stefan, who plays Vixen, described as "smart, bold and unafraid of expressing my beliefs": "When I first started in theater about 10 years ago, I would be paralyzed with fear before any monologue. It was daunting, because if I were to lose it, there would be no one to 'save' me. But after years of experience and lots of good directors, I've come to love monologues, and really learned to enjoy my time alone on stage, in that light where it is just me, my character and the audience."

Charles Kevin Smith, who plays Prancer, or as this reindeer prefers to be known, Hollywood: "I can't say I enjoy monologues more than conventional plays. But monologues present a unique challenge, because the actor has to shoulder the burden of setting the mood and storytelling by himself. Even so, in this show, while each monologue could stand by itself, they present a different part of the overall story. If one were missing, an essential part of the plot would be lost. So while each of us is alone on stage, there is still a feeling of ensemble."

Paula Scheider, who portrays Blitzen: "Because I am a corporate trainer, I am 'on stage' 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, so it would be wonderful to go to rehearsal and have a partner or two to share the spotlight with and play off. However, the upside of this type of show is less time at scheduled rehearsals, which as a wife and mother with a full-time career makes doing theater possible. I can run lines as I'm cooking dinner or while my daughters do homework - I just can't do them out loud with this show."

Dave Garcia, who plays Dasher, the de facto leader of "The Eight": "Each character has a unique personality that comes out distinctly in the monologue. What I find challenging is developing a recognizable character in a five-minute monologue without the interaction of other actors.

"And while our characters aren't even human but they play out that way. Anger, regret, ambition, hope, redemption - all human complexities on display in each 'animal.' Each monologue starts out relatively light and gets darker, and the audience is left to ponder the larger questions raised."


When: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and Dec. 15-17, 2 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 18

Where: Norman Theatre, Tulsa PAC, 110 E. Second St.

Tickets: $10-$15. 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix.

Note: "The Eight: Reindeer Monologues" is for mature audiences.

Original Print Headline: 'The Eight' tells adult reindeer tales

James D. Watts Jr 918-581-8478