Joking Envelope gives Christmas the retcon treatment
Christmas and comic-book superheroes can mix -- just ask playwright Bill Corbett and director Joseph Scrimshaw of Super-Powered Revenge Christmas #1, where a lonely writer decides that the holiday is in desperate need of a reboot.
"I came to this project armed with perhaps a little too much knowledge of superhero comic books for a middle-aged man," Corbett says. "I did have to catch up a bit with what's been happening in the past few decades, but that just confirmed my hunch that this was a good idea for a Christmas play, since comic book story lines have gotten more complex and retconned over time. Though it did make me struggle with the question of whether or not Santa should have retractable claws."
Corbett, perhaps best known for his years on Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and Scrimshaw, crafter of many Minnesota Fringe Festival hits and now the leader of Joking Envelope, teamed up, superhero style, for last year's My Monster, which played at the Bryant-Lake Bowl and the San Francisco Sketchfest.
Both enjoyed the experience and looked for future projects to do together. Corbett's idea of crafting a brooding, Batman-like Santa and a host of like-minded holiday characters was too good to pass up.
"I wanted to produce Super-Powered Revenge Christmas #1 for two main reasons. One, I really like super-heroes. Two, I know a lot of people who really like super-heroes," Scrimshaw says. "The holiday is a strange mish-mash of religious, secular, and personal traditions. And none of the stories make sense together. So Bill's idea of applying the 'retcon solution' -- admitting everything is a mess and creating stories that blatantly address and try to fix it -- employed by comic books was brilliant."
Set in a dive bar, the play lets each of the characters (played by Scrimshaw, Emily Gunyou Halaas, Mo Perry, John Middleton, and Matt Erkel) switch between their mundane human and super Christmas alter. "There's a lot of action in the comic book world. So there's a lot of jumping on and off parts of the set. We haven't bothered to do any zip-line work though, because I feel I can find a much cheaper way to break my wrist," Scrimshaw says.
While there is a bit of a deeper meaning here, both Scrimshaw and Corbett say the focus is on the funny side.
"During the holidays audiences are offered a lot of shows that are either saccharin-sweet or darkly bitter. This show is really about that tension," Scrimshaw says. "So I think audiences will learn: if you're not sure what the true meaning of Christmas is, that's cool, because you're not alone."
" Audiences will find the true meaning of Christmas," Corbett says. "We blow the lid off that whole thing! (Hint: Linus was wrong.)"
Super-Powered Revenge Christmas #1 previews this Thursday and Friday and opens Saturday at the Minneapolis Theatre Garage. The run ends December 18.
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