Tree House ending 2014 with a ‘wacky’ holiday comedy

Tree House Youth Theatre has a truly unique holiday performance planned that director Matt Gould has created specially for his troupe.

Ho…Ho…Huh? is Gould’s final ‘made-for-Tree House production.’

He has announced his retirement from the program and said he wanted to create something extra fun to end the year with.

The play revolves around Nigel Barber, an artistic, creative 13-year-old who hosts an unconventional holiday party. Instead of celebrating a North American Christmas, he hosts a European tradition-inspired event with characters drawn from European holiday lore.

The show will run at the Scott Block Theatre Dec. 4th-6th and 11th-13th. Tickets are $20 and are available on the Tree House Youth Theatre web site.

“This is going to be our biggest, biggest production of the year. The party Nigel hosts is the party of the decade – the party to end all Christmas and Solstice parties,” said Gould.

“Instead of paying attention to what Nigel refers to as the ‘ho-ho-horribleness of North American Christmas’, he has asked all of his guests to wear European Christmas characters. This play has lots of energy and is quite cheeky.”

Gould said he has created a piece that is entertaining with sharp wit, and is also multi-layered for all family members. He says there are jokes for the adults in the audience and lots to entertain children from the characters to the costumes.

Characters will include Tomte the Swedish gnome, Kallikantzaroi the Greek Christmas tricksters and Germany’s Perchta the Ugly. Gould says he drew ideas from the often frightening and dark European lore and that the costumes are inventive and unique.

“It is entertainment with a few pins – sharp little bits. There are things to think about for sure. It’s great for kids because they will see lots of wacky things and they will learn about European Christmas traditions, which are very dark and quite scary.”

In the second act of the play, the various party guests explain all of the European traditions and lore.

“One thing about this production is that it is a full compliment of our actors – ages nine to 17. It’s really kind of exciting. The younger actors are, I hope, being inspired and motivated by the older actors who are certainly old hands at all of this. I’d hoped that the older kids’ experience and confidence would be rubbing off on the younger ones, and that’s starting to happen I think,” he said.

After nearly 10 years with the Tree House Youth Theatre group, Gould has decided to welcome change in his life and resign as director in order to pay more attention to the frame store he owns in town with his partner.

“Sometimes, it is just time for a change and time for organizations to move in new directions. No one is unhappy with me, and I’m certainly not unhappy here. It’s just that the timing is right to focus on a variety of other things,” Gould said.

“I continue to not believe how much I actually adore the kids and the support that parents and the board have given me. I bring up these wacky ideas and they tell me to go for it. We have pushed edges ever so gently and continue to create good theatre.”

Gould said that he will still participate in another production in the spring but Ho…Ho…Huh? is his last original production with the group. He said it’s been an unbelievable run as director and that his feelings about departing are hard to put into words.

Meanwhile, according to Gould, the play is definitely not something audiences should enter into with any sort of expectations, other than to be entertained.

“For people without kids, just know that we do good theatre, not just youth theatre. We always try to impress upon the fact that we’re doing good stuff here. Just like every other organization, we really want people to come and enjoy this.”