It was over a year-and-a-half ago that the script for ‘Polar Bears’ was completed, literally two hours before its first public reading at Main Stage West. That was in late July of 2014, less than a week before I left for Scotland to present my first one-man-show ‘Wretch Like Me’ at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That reading—in which the great Keith Baker did such a good job of performing my words I came close to suggesting he play the part I’d assumed I would eventually play—confirmed that the real star of ‘Polar Bears’ was going to be the story itself. The audience, moved to loud laughter and sudden tears, made me believe that the script, though in need of a few alterations, was going to be something truly special once finally staged. Now, seventeen months later, ‘Polar Bears’ has opened on the same stage (then bare and empty) where Keith sat in a chair and read my words. After much waffling, I finally decided to follow my original plan and perform the show myself, and on a stage now crammed with scenery, couches, chairs, trunks, fireplaces, a Christmas tree, and boxes of decorations, I just finished the opening weekend of ‘Polar Bears.’
I will not dwell on the rougher moments here, other than to offer my thanks to director Sheri Lee Miller, producer Beth Craven, and stage manager Ross Brown, for so elegantly coaching and calming me through moments that might have undone me had I been in less sensitive and experienced hands.
The audience response to the show has been beyond what I expected or hoped for.
Amongst the various remarks and reactions posted on social media, are a number of comments that confirm that ‘Polar Bears,’ subtitled ‘A Story of Fatherhood, Funerals and Santa Claus,’ is as moving and complex and beautiful a story as I’d hoped it would be.
Here are a few of them.
“Wonderful, vital storytelling.”
“Joyous and silly, yet affecting and sad. Life is messy like that. Masterful acting, and skillful direction by Sheri Lee Miller.”
“Wonderfully authentic, and close to the heart.”
“Wow! Phenomenal job. This piece is powerful and rich.”
“A wonderful play, and a heartwarming story.”
“A poignant, heartfelt love letter to the magic of Christmas.”
“Thank you, David, for keeping the spirit of Christmas alive! Bravo!”
‘Polar Bears: A Story of Fatherhood, Death and Santa Claus’ runs Thursdays-Sundays at Main Stage West in Sebastopol.