Arts and Entertainment

Island Stage Left's ‘Christmas Memories’: Enjoy tales from around the fire at Roche Harbor

Daniel Mayes and Joy Van Camp perform in ‘Christmas Memories,’ at the Roche Harbor Pavilion.  - Jane K. Fox
Daniel Mayes and Joy Van Camp perform in ‘Christmas Memories,’ at the Roche Harbor Pavilion.
— image credit: Jane K. Fox

The festive season is one of traditions, whether it be food, family gatherings or the chance to give back to the community.

This December, Island Stage Left will bring all the classic traditions of story-telling to the Roche Harbor Pavilion. There is even the opportunity to enjoy the performance by the fireside — the pavilion’s and yours.

“Christmas Memories” is, as Island Stage Left co-founder Dan Mayes says, “a one-man show for two.” The piece is a compilation of various works by the celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas. Biographical writings, poetry (including the classic “A Child’s Christmas in Wales”) and 1920s songs are woven together in a festive feast for eyes and ears.

Written and adapted by director Helen Machin-Smith in 2002, “Christmas Memories” was Machin-Smith’s effort to create something secular that still spoke to the warm festive spirit; something that “would make people feel Christmas was a special time,” she said.

The life blood of the piece lies in sheer story telling. With a minimal set and sparse cast, Mayes is joined only by Joy Van Camp on stage. “Christmas Memories” is not plot driven, but narrative driven.

Using Roche Harbor Pavilion’s fireside as a centerpiece, Mayes draws the listener in to the rich landscape of Thomas’s characters.

“Memories of childhood have no order and no end ...” opens Thomas’ “A Child’s Christmas in Wales.” Thus Mayes morphs through a variety of characters, from Thomas himself, to children, to a postman. The stories are organized neither by chronology or overarching theme; they are the free-flowing overlap of memory and story.

Thomas may be most famous for his poetry, but Machin-Smith was careful to avoid intimidating language. “Christmas Memories” is about engaging audience members, not challenging them.

Machin-Smith said there is little need for elaborate sets or extended cast because, when it comes to Thomas, “The words illustrate themselves ... He creates vivid images, really vivid images. It sparks people’s imaginations, in a day and age when images are fed to you, this allows you to create your own.”

The songs in the piece are part of the memory collage, and bring a sense of time to “Christmas Memories.” Since Thomas grew up around the time of the Great War, the war tunes and traditional Welsh carols and folk songs help place the stories in their historical context.

When the show has been performed in previous years, Island Stage Left has had great success with private viewings of the piece. As there is no set requirements (although a fireplace provides a nice touch), and Mayes and Van Camp do not take up much space, the piece has been performed in living rooms around the island. Machin-Smith said this is a popular way to enjoy the intimate, story-telling nature of “Christmas Memories.”

“Christmas Memories” will be performed Dec. 10-19, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.

It continues Dec. 21-23, 7:30 p.m. On Dec. 24, reservations are recommended and the showings are at 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

For information about a private show, call 378-5649.

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