For 23 years B Street Theatre has premiered an original play every holiday season. The majority of these plays are written by our founder and Artistic Director Buck Busfield. Artistic Associate Sean Patrick Nill sat down with Buck to discuss the tradition just before our last play in the 2711 B Street location premieres.
When did you first start writing holiday shows?
Buck: 1994! It was the third year of B Street Theatre, and what happened was… it became holiday time, and Christmas Carol was too big, and we didn’t want to do Child’s Christmas in Wales and there was nothing else out there. We knew that we wanted to be fresh and new and fun and have the B Street Theatre feel and have something that could fit on our stage. So I just wrote something.
What was it called?
Holiday Tales from Around the World and we obviously researched holiday tradition from different nations across the globe. We had a Muslim tale for the Festival of Eed; De’vali from India; and we did a Christmas from colonial New England. It was a Fantasy Theatre styled show, like an hour and a half. It was the first one and it was fun and adequate.
“Holiday Tales From Around the World” featuring Dave Pierini and Mindy Stover-1994
Why’d you keep doing it?
I liked it. It was fun. The next year I wrote All Through the House which was really funny. And I just kept doing it. And I’ve done it every year. Well, not every year. There’s been some exceptions. But it’s mostly my work.
How has this tradition helped you improve as a writer?
Well, the only way to get better as a playwright is to write. Now, I’d say it’s improved my structure and technique. I always know where I’m going when I begin to write. When I first started, I begin writing and I’d get excited, ya know, I’d say, ‘Oh man! This is gonna be so good! This is gonna be really fun!” and I’d suddenly find myself in a corner. Now, as a mature writer, when I sit down to begin a story, I know how it’s going to end. That’s an important thing to learn.
How has the Holiday Show furthered B Street’s commitment to creating new work?
It’s the signature characteristic of B Street. Between School Tour, and Family Series, and Main Stage, we’ve premiered about 100 shows. It all started with school tour. We’ve all cut our teeth writing for Fantasy Theatre. When you have to write a six minute piece, and you need a protagonist, and a rising action and a climax and a resolution, and you want it to be good, you learn how to create a theatrical story that’s funny, compelling, and, most importantly, communicates to an audience. So now, with these holiday shows we’re able to write them in less than a month because we’ve had the practice.
What’s the quickest you’ve written a holiday show?
We had commissioned a playwright to write a holiday show, I forget the year. And he had refused to show me any pages before the first read-through. And after the first reading, I scrapped it. The playwright flew back to his home, I delayed rehearsal for a week, and I turned a two person play into a seven person play.
Under a week?
Yeah, in six days. Our latest adaptation of Christmas Carol also took six days. Once I realized it centered around an intervention, the story just came out real quick. Plus I get to have a lot of costume changing and slamming doors, which is always funny.
What’s been your favorite holiday show?
Well, I like all of them. But, if I had to choose… I mean, Throwing Parties was probably the best written… you know… page to page. I loved Kurt’s character in A Pale of Grace. He played this crazy guy from Eastern Europe. And one of my goals is to laugh in rehearsal, and I wrote him this monologue that he himself couldn’t get through the first couple of times without laughing, which always feels like an accomplishment for a playwright.
This’ll continue in the Sofia?
Oh yeah, as long as the audience wants it, we’ll do it.
‘Hear the Grass Grow’ featuring Dave Pierini, Ed Claudio, Elisabeth Nunziato, and Deborah O’Brien-2008
A Moving Day will be the last play produced at the 2711 B Street location. It opens November 12 and runs until Christmas Eve. Get your tickets.