Bob's Holiday Office Party at Camp Bar and Cabaret

Bob's Holiday Office Party at Camp Bar and Cabaret
Photo courtesy Actors Theater of Minnesota

Bob's Holiday Office Party is wrapping up its Minnesota run over at Camp Bar in St. Paul this weekend. The show, written by expatriate Midwesterners Rob Elk and Joe Keyes, has developed a bit of a cult following in Los Angeles. Its Minnesota run, produced by Actors Theater of Minnesota, features a crop of local comedic talent including Pat O'Brien, who acted in the L.A version before moving back to Minnesota four years ago.

Sixteen years ago Elk and Keyes, two former Twin Cities actors who were living in L.A., were asked to develop an interactive play. They quickly came up with the idea of an insurance agent in a small Iowa town hosting a party.

"[We] kind of improvised the first show," Elk says. "It was a lot of fun. We worked on the idea, and wrote a script from it." Early on they tried staging it in the springtime, but "it really worked as a holiday show," he says. 
Rob Elk and Joe Keyes performing in L.A. version
Rob Elk and Joe Keyes performing in L.A. version
Photo by Michelle Pedersen

From the beginning, there were a lot of Minnesota actors involved in the L.A. production, including O'Brien, who was involved in developing two different roles. He started off playing the mayor of the town, but switched over to Elwin, "the nerd guy who was mercilessly picked on in his youth, but had enough savvy to escape his small-town hell, and go on to make millions in Des Moines as hog confinement systems mogul," O'Brien says. 

The show started as improv, but "it coalesced over the years into a fairly tight script," he says. 

Keyes and Elk make rewrites to the show every year, adding topical bits. For instance, this year they added a number of jokes about the Tea Party and the current crop of Republican contenders. 
Bob's Holiday Office Party at Camp Bar and Cabaret
Photo courtesy Actors Theater of Minnesota

O'Brien says that doing the show here in Minnesota is not as different from doing it in L.A. as one might expect. In L.A., cast members are always changing because people get cast in films or a television shows. The main difference here is that the cast is a bit younger. "I guess that's why God made makeup," he says. 

Elk likens the changing casts to his experience with the long running Triple Espresso, which he has performed with. "At one point there were 20 actors," he says of Triple Espresso. "You would work with different people on different nights, in different cities. The material works -- no one could do it as good as the original guys -- but the play worked. The audiences really loved it." 

As for Bob's Holiday Office Party, Elk says it's kind of weird to hear the recordings of the Minnesota production, but also satisfying. "You have to let go of the thought that they are not doing it the way I would do it -- maybe they're better than me," he says. 


Bob's Holiday Office Party
7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday
Camp Bar and Cabaret
490 Robert St., St. Paul
For tickets, visit brownpapertickets or call 800.838.3006

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