No Name Players present this weekend 'The Truth About Santa'

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Santa Claus is coming to town tonight. But he’s not the jolly old St. Nick of your youth.

It’s “The Truth About Santa,” presented by the No Name Players at Arcade Comedy Theater, Downtown.

“It’s ‘An Apocalyptic Holiday Tale,’” according to the subtitle and the show’s director, Don DiGiulio. “A musical play, it re-imagines Santa Claus as the God that he once was and the various forms he has taken over the years.

“This is a vengeful Santa who has a mistress and illegitimate children and an addiction to joy weed. We have two candy-addicted, ukulele-playing elves that narrate our story. Santa’s children have special supernatural powers.

“It’s pretty interesting. It’s a crazy ride, about an hour long, with comedy ridiculousness and everything you want in a Christmas show that is not your typical holiday show.”

The production — written by Greg Kotis, who is best known for the musical parody “Urinetown” — is different, and that’s what attracted Mr. DiGiulio to it.

An actor who grew up in McKees Rocks, Mr. DiGiulio studied his art at Marshall University in West Virginia. His wife, actress Tressa Glover, grew up in Allison Park and studied at Penn State.

They started No Name Players in 2004, with Mr. DiGiulio as artistic director and Ms. Glover as producing artistic director. They took a three-year hiatus to act in Chicago, but returned to Mt. Lebanon, and have been producing shows since 2008.

“I started it to put up on stage stuff that I wanted to see,” Mr. DiGiulio said. “Basically whatever strikes my fancy, and it’s typically things that have never been done in Pittsburgh, and I want Pittsburgh to experience things for the first time.

“We tend to go the comedy route, but it’s usually works that have never been produced here, including tonight, which will be a Pittsburgh premiere. The audience grows with every show, and our name gets out there more and more.”

They bring in participating artists on a show-by-show basis, many of whom are returning participants. Of tonight’s eight cast members, six have worked on shows with No Name Players before.

But not all the shows are the same.

“I kind of spread it around,” Mr. DiGiulio said. “It’s whatever I find to be interesting. I do lean toward humor and irreverence, but ultimately it is the story that is the key. I look for pieces that are collaborative.”

No Name Players performs two shows each summer at Off the Wall Theater in Carnegie. They also do SWAN Day — Support Women Artists Now Day — in March. And then there are the occasional “pop-up” performances.

“Pittsburgh is a great city for it,” Mr. DiGiulio said. “The arts scene continues to thrive and grow. There’s all these smaller companies that are doing very interesting work on the fringes, in addition to the main companies that are always putting out exciting things, like the Public, the City, the Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theater, Bricolage, Barebones. Pittsburgh is really a higher-profile artistic city than it used to be.”

But that vibrant stage community is vying to slice up a pie that is only so big.

“It can be difficult to choose because there’s so much going on at any given time,” Mr. DiGiulio said. “But I don’t think the companies themselves necessarily view it as competition so much as supporting the arts at its greatest capacity.

“We find a lot of supportive crossover. Actors go out and work with all of these companies. It’s a very supportive artistic community. The eternal nonprofit conundrum is finding the funding. They’re out there, but giving has been down. Still, in some way — Pittsburgh being the blue-collar community that it is — we find a way to soldier on and thrive.”

Chances are, if you see this show, you’ll laugh when you see it, in spite of yourself.

“The audience should have the understanding that it’s a good-natured ribbing of the Santa Claus mythology,” Mr. DiGiulio said. “The Santa Claus character in different cultures. It’s pretty much everything you’ve ever heard about Santa in a blender.”

“The Truth About Santa” is presented at 10 p.m. tonight and 8 p.m. Saturday at Arcade Comedy Theater, 811 Liberty Ave., Downtown. Admission is $10 and it’s BYOB.

Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com.


First Published December 13, 2013 4:18 PM

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