A little more than a year ago, the Beowulf Alley Theatre Company launched its Late Night Theatre series.
"The program started because Beowulf is downtown, and there are a lot of people around from the Rialto or (Hotel) Congress," says Michael Fenlason, director of Late Night Theatre. "It's another fun thing to do down here at night."
When 3 a.m. debuted in fall 2008, Fenlason says, Tucsonan Brian Hanson caught the show and was inspired to write his own play to bring to the late-night stage. Friends of friends began participating in all aspects to bring the play to life; they eventually created a late-night committee.
The late-night committee finds scripts, puts plays together and in general offers a stage for people to present their work to audiences.
"My play was a duct-tape, grassroots effort," says Hanson of I'm Sorry I Liked You, which was presented in April. "Now, whenever we've got a cool idea, we just go with it."
Fenlason says that because 3 a.m. isn't a traditional play—it mixes stand-up comedy with actual scenes—it got more people thinking that they could write plays or audition for roles, too.
"We're different, more contemporary, and that's getting the interest," he says.
Beowulf's late-night shows are geared toward younger audiences, and they're faster-paced. Fenlason says the plays also tend to be a little more wild and crazy. They generally last about an hour to an hour and a half, leaving plenty of time for play-goers to leave and have some more fun before last call.
After presenting eight plays, the late-night crew decided to put on a sketch-comedy production. The result is Ho Ho Ho!, a play credited to the Grendel Players.
The sketches tweak traditional Christmas scenes, often using song. Fenlason says the play will be especially helpful to those who find this time of year more stressful than anything else. (Think swearing, a Santa with Tourette syndrome, and even a little pole-dancing, all with a Christmas backdrop.)
"Most of the songs use inappropriate lyrics. It's great," says Josh Parra, one of the play's actors.
In one of the sketches, Parra says, a group of carolers are unable to get a man to come out of his home. Everyone proceeds to sing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"—but in a threatening manner.
"It's easy to get wrapped up in everyday life, and we wanted to do a show to make each other and the audience laugh," says Parra. "We thought mocking Christmas would be the way to go."
Another cast member, Tristyn Tucci, says the actors are also throwing in some improvisation.
"There's what's on the page, in the script, and then there's what someone is feeling at the moment," says Tucci. "It gets funny."
Tucci says she likes how Beowulf's late-night series works.
"You really get to create with late night, and you get to have input with what's going on," she says. "We're all about the community and getting people involved here."
Part of Tucci's involvement with Ho Ho Ho! includes singing a blues-style original song. Tucci describes the singing character as a drunk-ass mama, the kind of person who might drink too much and say some embarrassing things when the family is over.
However, the cast and crew aren't just mocking the season with drunk-ass mamas; they're also getting into the good holiday spirit, too. If you bring a new toy for Toys for Tots to one of the first three shows, you get in for half-price. For the final show, the day after Christmas, they're encouraging everyone to bring in the crappiest gift ever received. The person who brings the absolute crappiest gift wins a prize.