Once upon a time, way back in the summer of 2003, Bohemian contributor David Templeton and producer Dan Zastrow were having a conversation about a strange Christmas story that David had written.
“You know what would be cool?” David said. “Maybe someday finding some interesting people to gather onstage and read a bunch of twisted Christmas stories, and maybe do it as a benefit.” And Dan said, “You know, we really can do that.” And David said, “Really?” And Dan said, “Really!”
And in December of that year, the first ever Twisted Christmas Live! was unveiled.
Performers such as musician Charlie Musselwhite, bluesman Roy Rogers, comedian Johnny Steele, radio’s Steve Jaxon, actress Diane Amos (best known as the Pine-Sol lady in commercials) and dozens of others would regale local audiences over the years with the most twisted Christmas tales imaginable while supporting local food banks. Audiences, at first confused by musicians not playing music and comedians not telling jokes, soon took to the format and it became a sold-out event for years.
After their 2012 “End of the World Show,” Templeton and Zastrow decided to commit their time and energy to other projects, so the final curtain was drawn on Twisted Christmas Live! and Sonoma County Christmases were never the same again.
But like the Grinch returning presents to the Whos in Whoville, Templeton is bringing Twisted Christmas Live! back to the area, this time as a benefit for the Spreckels Theatre Company’s Performing Arts and Youth Theater Programs.
Some of the old crew will return, like comedians Will and Debi Durst and the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s Reed Martin. Newcomers include goth comedian Oliver Graves (America’s Got Talent) and veteran film, television and stage actor Charles Siebert, who spent two years playing Scrooge in 6th Street Playhouse’s Christmas Carol.
Audiences will see these and other performers presenting seven weird, funny, off-the-wall Christmas stories, including a rhyming version of Die Hard, a reading of “The Night Before Christmas” done as a bingo game, an original ghost story by Healdsburg’s Irène Hodes, plus a satirical musical tribute to the music of Disney’s Frozen, some outrageous short films by local filmmaker John Harden and an appearance by the North Bay Zombie Caroling Choir.
Templeton hopes people who want something a little different in their holiday entertainment will still come out. “It’s pretty much for everybody,” he says, “who likes to laugh and gasp and go, ‘Oooooh, I really wasn’t expecting that!'”