Preview: David Templeton Hands Off Role in “Polar Bears”

When after sixteen years David Templeton hung up his theater critic’s hat, his stated purpose was to turn his full attention to other pursuits: artistic, journalistic, theatrical and otherwise. Since then, he continues to write, has a full-time gig as the Community Editor at the Petaluma Argus-Courier, and took a featured role in Left Edge Theatre’s pole dancing extravaganza The Naked Truth. An “otherwise” pursuit for Templeton would be directing, and he’s about to do just that with his holiday-themed one-man show Polar Bears, opening November 30 at San Rafael’s Belrose Theater.

Templeton describes Polar Bears as “a heartwarming holiday tragedy.” Say Again?  “I wrote it,” said Templeton, “because I’ve read scads of stories about Christmas and families and Santa Claus, but never have I read any story about that unique passage of childhood, and parenthood, that is the moment that kids stop believing, and the ways their parents help or hinder that rite of passage.”

It’s an autobiographical tale of an average father who finds himself a bit in-over-his-head one holiday season and goes to increasingly outlandish lengths to keep his kids’ belief in Santa alive. It seems his own faith in Santa was disrupted when he was four-years-old and he’s hellbent on making sure that doesn’t happen to his kids.

Chris Schloemp

Polar Bears had two successful productions in Sonoma County with Templeton under the direction of Sheri Lee Miller. For the Marin production, Templeton takes over the directing reins and has cast actor Chris Schloemp in the role of David Templeton. Sound strange? “I’m actually not thinking of it as Chris playing ME,” said Templeton, “he’s playing a character named David, who did some things I did, but I told him from the beginning to think of David as a fictional character. He’s constantly surprising me with new things, and I love it.”

What’s it like for an actor to be directed by his ‘character’? “Being directed by the guy you’re performing and who’s also the writer is a little intimidating”, said Schloemp, “but also very rewarding in that, in any play, there are always those nagging questions you want to ask. Here I get to ask them at every rehearsal. David’s been very insistent that I am not playing him, so I have free rein.”

So, in a season full of Nutcrackers and Christmas Carols, where does Polar Bears fit in? “I think anyone who loves Christmas stories but has grown tired of the same old cloying, overly sentimental holiday stories will appreciate it”, said Templeton. “That was the intention, and based on audience reactions in the past, I think we’ve succeeded.”

Actors Basement presents ‘Polar Bears’, running November 30 – December 15 at the Belrose, 1415 Fifth Ave., San Rafael. Friday–Saturday, 7:30pm; $20–$25. 707.338.6013. thebelrose.com

There will be one performance in Santa Rosa on Sunday, December 23 at 7pm at Left Edge Theatre, 50 Mark West Springs Road, $25–$40. 707.546.3600. leftedgetheatre.com

Photo by David Templeton

This article originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.

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