Imagine you and your closest loved ones dressed in warm, festive attire, clutching steaming hot cocoa in your mittened hands and singing along to classic holiday songs, the scent of barbecue in the air hinting of dinner.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! If the above scenario seems impossible during these distanced, darkening days of COVID-19, the old assurance from Christmas lore seems apt for the event the Woodlawn Theatre and Cool Crest Miniature Golf will present on Sunday, with doors opening at 5 p.m.
The “Family Holiday Night” event will feature popular actors familiar from Woodlawn productions singing holiday songs in the open air of Cool Crest’s new Metzger Biergarten. Each $20 ticket buys a round of mini golf and a socially distanced seat in the biergarten to enjoy the 6 p.m. show, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Woodlawn’s COVID-19 Relief Fund that benefits the theater and its actors.
Hot cocoa will be available, along with dinner items from Uncle Jesse’s BBQ Food Truck, and local craft brews from the biergarten. For an additional fee, attendees can join in on Holiday Bingo.
“It’s just a nice opportunity for us to have a little bit of holiday cheer safely outside surrounded by our community,” said Chris Rodriguez, the Woodlawn’s executive and artistic director.
Like all live performance venues, Woodlawn Theatre had to cancel its 2020 productions because of COVID-19. Rodriguez recognized that converting to online performances was a prudent move for many organizations, but realized that by the fall season, people might be experiencing “virtual fatigue.”
Rodriguez brainstormed ways to bring live performance back, and when he was approached by Woodlawn neighbor Cool Crest to bring theater to their new outdoor venue, he felt the answer was obvious.
“This is perfect timing,” Rodriguez realized. “It seemed like the stars were aligned.”
Performers Morgan Clyde, Sami Serrano, Jimmi Nelson-Reid, Miguel Ochoa, Kate and Christine Ragan, Melissa Gonzalez, Myles Harris, and Sarah Davis joined in to bring a roster of holiday-themed songs, including familiar favorites such as “Santa, Baby,” and “Winter Wonderland,” to offer an option for families to enjoy Christmas even as health authorities warn people to avoid gatherings.
“Everyone I’ve talked to just keeps saying it just doesn’t feel like the holidays, and we all know we’re under strange circumstances,” Rodriguez said.
“Hopefully in the next few months, things will get better. But it’s the holidays and we’re trying every avenue for us to have a way to connect with our community. … Anything we can do to make them feel comfortable, we’re willing to try out.”
Pandemic safety protocols will be in place, including mandated face coverings whenever patrons are not eating or drinking. Tables will be placed at 6-foot distances, and ticketing capacity will limit the number of attendees to 75.
Rodriguez said the event is more about connecting to the community than raising funds, though any money collected will “help at least pay for our electricity bill for one of our buildings for next month. So any little bit helps,” he said.
While Rodriguez encouraged people to attend, he acknowledged some fans of the theater might not be comfortable venturing out, given the warnings of health risks. Anyone can still help the theater survive the pandemic shutdown, though, by visiting the website and donating to the Giving Tree, or simply spreading the word about Sunday’s event.
Advance tickets are recommended, available on the Woodlawn Theatre website.