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Playback Theater Virginia mines the ordinary for the silly, sad and sweet

If the question "Are you ready for Christmas?" is a loaded one at your house, just imagine how it can play out in the hands of Playback Theater Virginia’s cast.

"Holiday Stories" is the latest production for the cast of improvisational players, and audience members can enjoy shows at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Crozet Arts. Each show is different, because the audience members will be different, as will be the stories they share.

"Of course, it will change night to night," Boomie Pedersen said. "We have no idea what to expect, but there will be stories. I guarantee you that."

Part of the challenge — and the fun — is helping audience members realize that their stories are worthy inspirations for on-stage portrayals.

"We don’t come prepared with stories. The audience comes with the stories," Larry Goldstein said. "It’s a bit of a laboratory. It would be natural to say, ‘I don’t think my stories are interesting enough.’

"Calling it ‘Holiday Stories’ makes a lot of sense. I have to find a way to ask that ‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ is not a yes-or-no question."

Finding out what people are and are not ready for is where the magic lies. Some folks may look forward to spending the holidays with family members, while others may dread time spent with polarizing personalities. Some may share Christmas memories that can leave everyone laughing out loud. Goldstein said to expect the 90-minute show to contain a mix of "tender stories and sad stories and some funny stories."

Joining Goldstein and Pedersen will be Kristen Atkins, Abena Foreman Trice, Renee Garris, Michelle James, Tonya Osinkosky, Jennifer Peart, John Rabasa and Katrien Vance.

Each show will bring a different combination of performers and perceivers together to see what happens when folks team up to listen to one another’s stories and "play them back" as theater pieces to share with everyone. Live music will accompany the action.

The Charlottesville area has had a Playback ensemble for three decades now, and the concept thrives in 75 different countries.

"What’s great about this is it’s so collaborative," Pedersen said.

Before you settle into your seat for the show, reflect on what might be happening in your life that could make good material for storytelling. Goldstein and Pedersen want to be sure you come away realizing that your stories are worth telling.

"Stories, like cookies, are best when they’re shared," Pedersen said.

Tickets are $15 or "pay what you can," and they’re available in advance or at the door at 1408 Crozet Ave. Refreshments will be sold, and proceeds will benefit The Hamner Theater. To learn more, email


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