When Trustus Theatre set out to perform a holiday play, organizers couldn’t quite find the right fit.
“So we created one,” said Abigail McNeely, a member of the Mothers comedy and improv troupe and director of Trustus’ newest production, “The Christmas Miracle at the Richland Fashion Mall.”
(This isn’t the Mothers’ only project. You can catch their improv shows at 11:15 p.m. Dec. 8, Dec. 15 and Jan. 26 and a sketch comedy show Jan. 31, all on the Thigpen Main Stage at Trustus.)
Here’s what McNeely told GoColumbia about the show, which opens Friday, Dec. 1.
Q: Are you really performing a Christmas play at Richland Mall?
A: Actually, no, but that’s come up a lot! Please put that it’s at Trustus in big letters at the beginning of the article. We don’t want people roaming through the mall looking for a stage!
Q: How did a Christmas play about Richland Mall come to exist?
A: The Mothers group at Trustus – we’re the resident sketch and improv troupe – couldn’t find a Christmas play that we felt was a fit for Trustus. So we created one. It seemed right to have the entire production take place in one location, and malls are perfectly Christmas-y, so we went with it! There were also so many collective memories within the group about Richland Mall that we knew we had to make that the location.
Q: What’s the plot?
A: It takes place in the present day. The mall’s shop owners must come together raise a certain amount of money to keep the mall open. A big part of the story is all the creative ways they come up with to meet their goal. They’re a real mix of personalities, but they’re working toward one goal. That banding together of such a diverse group makes it a sweet Christmas tale, but it’s new and modern and still very Trustus. There’s also a bit of a love story in there, and, of course, Santa. It’s a very welcoming piece, too, so come take a chance. There’s even a bar!
Q: How large is the cast?
A: Only eight people, but everyone plays multiple characters. A couple of people have 10 different roles each, and they’re rock stars! We had so much fun creating the stereotypical ’80s and ’90s characters, like mall walkers, an ’80s businesswomen with her big shoulder pads and a few slacker mall workers.
Q: What’s it like to create a play from scratch?
A: This is only the Mothers’ second season together, but we’ve already created so much stuff in these past 18 months that it really felt like an extension of that. We’ve gotten to where we totally trust each other, which is absolutely vital in comedy because you really need honest feedback on what’s funny and what isn’t. For us, one of the best parts was being able to make it so much about Columbia! We put in a lot of references to only-in-Columbia things – they’re called “Easter eggs,” so look for them!
If you go
“A Christmas Miracle at the Richland Fashion Mall”
WHEN: Various times Friday, Dec. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 16.
WHERE: Trustus Theatre, 520 Lady St.
TICKETS: From $25.