When after 16 years the Sun and Bohemian’s theater reviewer David Templeton hung up his 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 for the papers 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 Nov. 30 at San Rafael’s Belrose Theater.
Templeton describes Polar Bears as “a heartwarming holiday tragedy.” Say again? “I wrote it,” Templeton says, “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 in a bit 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 Templeton was four years old, and he’s hell-bent on making sure that doesn’t happen to his kids.
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,” Templeton says. “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.”
What’s it like for an actor to be directed by his “character”? “Being directed by the guy you’re performing is a little intimidating,” Schloemp says, “but also very rewarding, in that there are always those nagging questions you want to ask. Here I get to ask them at every rehearsal.”
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,” Templeton says. “That was the intention, and based on audience reactions in the past, I think we’ve succeeded.”
Actors Basement presents ‘Polar Bears,’ running Nov. 30–Dec. 15 at the Belrose, 1415 Fifth Ave., San Rafael. Friday–Saturday, 7:30pm; $20–$25. 707.338.6013. thebelrose.com.