Gifts of the season from Island Stage Left

  • Fri Dec 13th, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

Submitted by Island Stage Left

Island Stage Left offers islanders two holiday shows this year! “Christmas Memories” opens this Saturday, Dec. 14, and “Omnium Gatherum” opens Dec. 18.

The shows will play on different nights, up to (and including) Christmas Eve. All performances are at the Marie Boe Building, San Juan County Fairgrounds.

“We thought since we didn’t have a Christmas show last year perhaps we would give people a choice this year,” said ISL director Helen Machin-Smith.

Both shows mix live music, stories and poetry, but in very different ways. “Christmas Memories” takes the audience to a small town in Wales, and a child’s view of the winter world a hundred years ago. The writing of Dylan Thomas -performed by Daniel Mayes- sets the tone: “All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged, fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find.” This year’s show brings Penelope Haskew’s delightful voice to join Mayes in authentic music of the era, interwoven with the Dylan Thomas story.

“What I love most about this show is the language – it’s colorful and evocative and unusual – and the music is a real voice from the past, from those days,” says Machin-Smith. It’s guaranteed to send you home smiling – with the words still humming and thrumming in your head. Shows dates are Dec. 14, 15, 19, 21 and 23.

“Omnium Gatherum” is a different kettle of fish. The name itself is a fanciful, fake-Latin phrase that means “hodgepodge, pastiche, smorgasbord, farrago” – but this farrago is really a carefully planned mix of music, poetry, anecdotes and stories that gently, often comically, work their way into your heart. Helen and Dan are joined for “Omnium Gatherum” by island musicians Carol Hooper, Joely Louks and Mark Mazzarella.

Machin-Smith is always looking for new pieces to add to “Omnium,” so the show evolves from year to year: “I want a wide selection of materials, for all ages, religious or non-religious, totally inclusive. I like a balance of things that are nostalgic, things that make people think, and that make people laugh. Unusual things that you don’t usually associate with a Christmas program,” she says. A disastrous Christmas cake monologue by an elderly lady in the UK was found on YouTube. Other pieces might include Tolkein, Maya Angelou, Garrison Keillor, a snippet of Harry Potter or the true story of the Christmas truce in the trenches during the first World War. This Christmas concoction is clever, comic and touching. Shows dates are Dec. 18, 20, 22, 24.

There’s time before Christmas to catch them both!

All shows at 7:30 p.m. except for Sundays when shows are at 4 p.m., and Dec. 24 shows at 4 p.m and 6:30 p.m. Reservations required and available for Dec. 24 only, email

Free admission to all shows. Donations appreciated. Further information: 360-378-5649 or