Christmas Jeer

If we see one more "reason for the season" sweatshirt, we'll scream. If one more do-gooder rings a bell outside Target, we'll have to pummel him with one of the "WWJD" paddle-ball games our agnostic father-in-law orders every year--by the dozen--from Oriental Trading Company. When Christmas gets this close, nearly everyone is overtaken by some degree of reverence and good will. Even the barely religious consider slinking into church on Christmas Eve. Even the hard-hearted toss a dollar into the red kettle. Even the bastard who cuts you off on Central will hurry to move his car when he sees you waiting for his parking space at NorthPark. If you survive the last gasp of holiday stress, you'll probably mellow out about now, watch It's a Wonderful Life again, and be overcome by the true meaning of Christmas. Kinda makes you gag, doesn't it?

We've found an authentic case of holiday insanity--and the best use of your time on Wednesday ("church night")--this week. We've discovered a theater troupe whose only goal is to put the irreverence back in Christmas with gleeful pokes at the holy family in a stage performance by and for the lunatic fringe. Moonwater Theater Company, led by Jeffrey Schmidt, actor, promoter, and certifiable lunatic himself, is presenting Holiday Hootenanny at Fort Worth's restored-to-its-former-glory Ridglea Theater.

Schmidt's been around Dallas theater for eight years, first with Undermain, then at Theatre Three. He started Fort Worth-based Moonwater and its companion improvisational troupe, Fuzzy Logic, three years ago with performances at Stage West, followed by a yearlong stint in a temporary space on West Magnolia in Fort Worth's up-and-coming Fairmount neighborhood. He finally settled his merry band--when they can work their shtick in around the Ridglea's full schedule of real band concerts--on Camp Bowie at the former movie house. "We didn't have the time to do a real play for the holidays," Schmidt says. "So we came up with this show and kept the improvisational attitude and philosophy." Basically, he says, Holiday Hootenanny is a big Christmas spoof. "The stage is a huge board game with cardboard cutouts," he says. "And baby Jesus emcees a majority of the show." Actors will lead the audience in games like "Manger Toss," "Guess What's in Santa's Pants," and "Pin the Mary on the Donkey" as they land on "surprise" squares of the board onstage and improvise scenes from audience members' favorite holiday memories. "We've got video segments too," Schmidt says, gleaned from candid, unauthorized video the cast shot of rabid shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving at a local mall.

Moonwater Theater's "Holiday Hootenanny" includes company members Yvonne DuQue, Brad Jackson, Karen Lockwood, and Lydia Mackay along with longtime associates Debbie Inman and Justin Pate. "We have a lot of musical talent in the cast," Schmidt says, so the merriment includes traditional Christmas music "tailored" for the occasion. "We've switched the lyrics on old favorites like 'Silent Night,'" Schmidt says. The shenanigans--and ensuing public incontinence--open on Wednesday, December 20, and close Thursday, December 21.