Stage & Dance

Actors Guild schedules second show: site-specific 'SantaLand Diaries'

Yes, Kentucky, there will be a Christmas production by Actors Guild of Lexington.

The troubled theater's next show will be a site-specific staging of David Sedaris' The SantaLand Diaries at the former Portabella restaurant, 115 North Locust Hill Drive. It will run Dec. 10 to 20.

The show comes in the wake of a stormy summer and uncertain fall for the theater, whose funding from LexArts was eliminated and whose top two directors resigned. LexArts cut the funding, about $70,000 in recent years, saying it had concerns about the fiscal management and overall viability of the theater, Lexington's only semi-professional stage troupe for adults.

The SantaLand Diaries is Actors Guild's first production since Beguiled Again, a Rodgers and Hart musical revue that had a two-weekend run at the Downtown Arts Center in early fall. The season schedule that Actors Guild announced last spring was to include David Hare's The Vertical Hour and, for the holidays, a one-man version of It's a Wonderful Life.

Associate artistic director Eric Seale, the theater's only paid staff member, said SantaLand is a signal that AGL will continue presenting shows.

"If people are wondering, 'Is there an AGL?,' Yes, there's an AGL," he said. "If they are wondering, 'Are they putting on shows?,' Yes, we're putting on shows."

He said the theater is not ready to announce any productions after SantaLand.

A site-specific production is staged in a venue that relates to the subject matter. It's not a new concept and has been popular in Lexington in the past year. On the Verge Productions presented Lillian Hellman's family dramas The Little Foxes and Another Part of the Forest in historic homes downtown.

SantaLand, a one-person show about a man who plays an elf in the Christmas display at Macy's, will be presented in the vacant retail space formerly occupied by Portabella, near Movie Tavern.

It will star Tim Hull, an emerging Lexington actor who recently was in Another Part of the Forest. Co-directors will be Seale and Leif Erickson Rigney, an actor last seen in Studio Players' production of The Unexpected Guest.

AGL previously staged SantaLand in 2004 at the Downtown Arts Center.

Seale said the site-specific nature of this fall's production was an aesthetic decision inspired by ideas he had heard at theater conferences. He said AGL explored several retail-space options before settling on the old Portabella location.

The play, based on Sedaris' 1992 essay, looks at how people try to find holiday happiness in retail experiences, including visiting a department-store Santa. Seale said the Portabella site will be done up like a mall Santa display to make the show "an experience."

Seale said he expects tickets to go on sale early next week through Actors Guild's Web site, www.actorsguildoflexington.org, or by calling 1-866-811-4111.

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