Though he didn’t know exactly what format it would take, Rich Garrett said he knew he wanted Theatre of Arts Discipline (TOAD) to present a Christmas show.
“The Gift”, a virtual show streaming Dec. 18-20, is the Chehalis theater company’s Christmas gift to the community as well as a reminder that while COVID-19 may have canceled live theater, it has not eliminated it.
“The arts are still alive and an outlet for a moment in time to forget the things that are going on,” said Garrett, who is directing the show.
TOAD is a Chehalis-based theater company that typically brings theater experiences to schools without drama programs throughout the region. Because of COVID-19 restrictions, this year has been different for TOAD and owners Rich and Kris Garrett, who said they have been finding ways to keep creating art and excitement for theater. In the spring, TOAD produced a virtual play, with individual parts performed and recorded from kids’ homes. And this summer, TOAD held a completely socially distanced and masked summer musical theater experience and performance of “The Lion King, Jr.” They also produced a virtual show of ghost stories near Halloween, using actors and actresses who were in COVID “pods” with one another. The idea to produce “The Gift” as a Christmas show came out of a reading at one of several by-invitation play readings they have held over the last several months. Garrett said he was familiar with the play but a recent re-reading of it led him to want to produce it.
“I didn’t know the depth of this play until I began reading it again,” Garrett said. “Each time I read it; I get more from it.”
Written by Virginia De Wyze, “The Gift” tells the story of five women from very diverse backgrounds whose lives are all touched by the possession of an ornately carved wooden box. The box, a cherished handmade gift from one character’s now-deceased uncle, gets inadvertently donated, purchased and hoarded away, stolen, pawned and then gifted back to its original owner as it moves from woman to woman and you hear their unique stories.
“The gift itself means something different for each person but it’s the magical journy it goes on that’s really interesting,” Garrett said. “Physical things mean different things to everyone. It’s this whole question of what’s really important and what does and does not speak to you?”
The women who will tell the story of “The Gift” are: Alene Stewart; Michelle Koenen; Brenda Crummett; Brittany Lael; and Brynn Walker. The cast for “The Gift” comprises five actresses the Garretts already knew through work they also do at the Evergreen Playhouse in Centralia. Garrett said he felt honored to be able to offer these actresses an opportunity to act for the community, since the Evergreen Playhouse’s regular season was canceled this year.
“This is a great chance to showcase some really cool characters and some really cool acting abilities,” Garrett said.
The most current COVID-19 restrictions for the state were set to expire on Dec. 14 and Garrett said it was his hope that if some restrictions are lifted on that date, they may be able to gather the cast on the Evergreen Playhouse stage to perform the show together for the recording. The restrictions have been extended through Jan. 4.
“Either way, we’re going to have a show,” Garrett said.
“The Gift” will stream Dec. 18-20. Garrett said those dates were chosen because they would have been the weekend TOAD produced its live radio performance of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The performance has graced the Evergreen Playhouse stage the weekend prior to Christmas for the last few years and Garrett said they were sad to have to cancel this year.
“That show has never been about we want to have a massive audience come to it. It has always been a personal project for us and a thing that fills our hearts so it’s bittersweet that we can’t have it but we need to protect each other in this time. (“The Gift”) is an opportunity to give something back to the people who have supported us.”
TOAD Theatre presents “The Gift”
When: Dec. 18-20
Where: Virtual platform, viewing directions are sent after ticket purchase
Tickets: pay-what-you-can ticket cab be purchased at toadtheatre.com