Idyllwild Actors Theatre serves up a festive mix of heartwarming, hilarious and touching Christmas stories in readers’ theater format by some of America’s most noted authors. “A Merry, Madcap Christmas” features IAT’s core company of actors — Jeri Greene, Michèle Marsh, Howard Shangraw, Jacob Teel, Meg Wolf, Betty Anderson and Suzanne Avalon.
With a cappella holiday musical selections arranged by cast member and music director Barbara Rayliss and Christmas stories from Robert Benchley, Harper Lee, David Sedaris and Aaron Shepard, the evening will be warm, cozy and life-affirming. “There’ll be a lot of humor and some poignancy, which is just what we need at this time in our lives and with what is going on in the world,” said IAT founder Avalon.
Particularly poignant and uplifting, especially now, is “The Christmas Truce” by Aaron Shepard, a recounting of Christmas Eve 1914 as English and German troops hunkered down in trenches across a line of demarcation in France in World War I. Fighting had slowed, given horrendous casualties on both sides, and opposing troops waited silently, only 50 yards apart, as rains that had pummeled the battlefield began to abate. As temperatures fell, the land became coated in a white frost. Shooting stopped. English troops peered with astonishment as they saw what appeared to be Christmas trees with candles and lanterns erected by German troops in front of their lines. For the rest of the true story, you’ll have to wait to hear it told by IAT’s corps.
Wrote Shepard, “The Christmas Truce of 1914 is one of the most extraordinary incidents not only of World War I but of all military history. Providing inspiration for songs, books, plays and movies, it has endured as an archetypal image of peace.
“Starting in some places on Christmas Eve and in others on Christmas Day, the truce covered as much as two-thirds of the British-German front. Thousands of soldiers took part. Perhaps most remarkably, it grew out of no single initiative but sprang up in each place spontaneously and independently.”
Shepard cautioned that this kind of event may never be seen again on battlefields, given how war is now conducted by sighting on a computer screen and pushing a button: “Yet still, what happened on that Christmas of 1914 may inspire the peacemakers of today – for now, now as always, the best time to make peace is long before the armies go to war.”
“A Merry, Madcap Christmas” plays at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 11, and Saturday, Dec. 12, at the Rainbow Inn. A reception precedes each performance at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the door or online at www.idyllwildactorstheatre.com. A dinner theater package is offered with the Gastrognome Restaurant for $50 per person. The package includes a three-course meal and preferred and reserved seating. For more information, call 951-692-9553.