Local News

Vero Voce Theater in St. Charles to host debut of ‘Seasonal Tags’

A good tradition always returns, even if it gets interrupted for a year. WT Productions is living that philosophy as it gears up to bring the fourth installment of its “Seasonal” shows to the stage at Vero Voce Theater in St. Charles.

First, it was “Seasonal Ties.” Then it was “Seasonal Bows.” In 2019, it was “Seasonal Wraps,” a news release stated. After being shut down like the rest of the theater world in 2020, the company returns with “Seasonal Tags.”

WT Productions presents the new collection of six short plays that looks at Christmas and the winter holidays from different perspectives. Each play tells a different story, and elements of the first five get wrapped together in the finale. “Seasonal Tags” blends light comedy, dark comedy, and drama to put a unique spin on this traditional time of year.

The production was written, produced and directed by Debbi Dennison of Streamwood, and Carl Zeitler of Glen Ellyn.

“I’m excited that we are back,” Dennison stated in the release. “The holidays last year felt empty without doing a ‘Seasonal’ show. I love that this year’s show has an even more quirky mix of characters than normal.”

Her co-creator agrees.

“It’s energizing to be doing a new one, especially with this cast,” Zeitler stated. “More than half of the cast is in their first ‘Seasonal’ production. They brought terrific talent, commitment, ideas, energy, and fun to the mix.”

The cast features Mark Brewer (Mount Prospect), Gail Cannata (Naperville), Steve Delaney (St. Charles), Dennison, Kristen Duerdoth (Aurora), Betsey Manzoni (Joliet), Stephen Pickering (Fox River Grove), Debbie Roberts (Lockport), Kate Roberts (Lockport), Erick Sosa (River Grove), Julane Sullivan (Batavia) and Zeitler.

Delaney is in his third “Seasonal” production. He reflected on the experience, going back to the first show in 2017.

“They are fun to perform, mostly due to the unique characters and the creative situations they navigate,” he said in the release. “A lot happens in a short time, and I enjoy the challenge of unpacking the relationships and uncovering unexpected moments between me and the other actors. Also, I really like working with the writers/directors; they foster a fun, safe working environment. It has become a holiday tradition for me, and when I’m not able to participate as an actor, you will find me in the audience.”

Dennison and Zeitler each wrote two of the plays on their own, and collaborated on the other two, including the finale, which always combines plot elements and characters from the previous five stories. The finales have become fan favorites over the years.

“One thing that is almost always mentioned by returning audience members is that they can’t wait to see what we do with the finale,” Dennison said. “They expect by now that the finale will incorporate elements of the previous five pieces and tie them together somehow, but also create a new story.”

Duerdoth appeared in “Seasonal Bows” in 2018, and gladly returned for this production.

“It was so much fun,” Duerdoth stated. “Debbi and Carl write such wonderful shows – funny and poignant. You want to be part of those characters’ lives. And everyone is so relaxed. A lot of fun with great friends. A wonderful tribute to Christmas. I am so happy to be back.”

“Seasonal Tags” consists of “Sleigh ‘Em at the Reunion,” co-written and co-directed by Dennison and Zeitler, which deals with two women attending their high school reunion and finding nice (and sometimes naughty) results. The second play of the show is “Out of Holiday Cheer,” written and directed by Zeitler, and it looks at how a joyful office Christmas party can take a dark turn. “Tag Team Blind Date,” written and directed by Zeitler, focuses on the great lengths two people go to in order to help their friends on a first date during the holiday season. “Tag Out,” written and directed by Dennison, asks whether you’d rather spend Christmas with your wife or your odd, but fun, best friend. “#HolidayHookUp,” written and directed by Dennison, casts an eye on people trying to find a holiday date on the hottest local cable dating TV show. The show’s finale is “No Tag Backs,” co-written and co-directed by Dennison and Zeitler, and it features the entire cast.

Members of the “Seasonal Tags” Universe come together in WT Productions’ traditional “Seasonal” style. Cannata is a member of that company for the first time.

“I’ve always been in the audience, so when I was asked to participate on stage, I thought it would be fun,” Cannata stated. “It’s a good feeling being able to support my creative friends Carl and Debbi. Then I read the clever scripts they wrote and I was sold!”

Those involved with the production feel people will enjoy coming out to see “Seasonal Tags.”

“Our audience has become somewhat of a cult audience, and I mean that in the best way,” Dennison said. “We have people that return year after year and look forward to seeing the show. It has become a tradition for many.”

Zeitler believes many people seek new and different holiday theatrical experiences. They take a chance on something original, and come away feeling it was well worth the chance.

“The originality of the ‘Seasonal’ series is refreshing,” Delaney said. “It’s always fun and creative. Some pieces are clever, entertaining comedies, and others explore the pain and loss felt keenly during the holidays. You never know what you’re going to get, but there is a balance to it. Even the silliest characters have humanity, and the shows exploring darker themes never fail to find the humor. Also, there is a lot to discover below the surface. Sometimes you may think you understand what is going on at first, but as the plot unfolds, the underlying reality becomes clear. While no two ‘Seasonal’ shows are the same, attentive audience members will discover connections between the different vignettes within the show, and references to shows of the past. Audiences should come to experience it for themselves.”

Duerdoth said she absolutely loves the shows this year, calling them truly creative.

“So many great stories, and … the way Debbi and Carl wrap everything up, it is simply brilliant,” she said.

“Come see a group of friends just enjoying being on stage again,” Cannata said. “It’s a great opportunity to enjoy live theater while supporting local artists. The holidays can be so hectic that it’s fun to escape for a while and laugh at the silliness without a care in the world.”

“Seasonal Tags” will be performed at Vero Voce Theater the weekends of Dec. 3 to 5 and 10 to 12, with 8 p.m. shows Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday matinees. Tickets cost $17 for adults, and $15 for seniors/students.

Vero Voce Theater is at 3755 E. Main St. (Route 64), Suite 158, in St. Charles. For information, call Vero Voce at 630-584-0139. Free parking is available.

No ticket reservations or sales will be made over the phone. Go to wtproductions2.weebly.com for tickets and additional information.

The play is rated PG-13 due to content and language. Audience members are required to wear a mask during performances; actors will not be masked while onstage.

Dennison had the final word on why “Seasonal Tags” will be unique.

“What other holiday show has Santa, high school reunion attendees, a hot dog, and puppets all in one show?”