First published in the Dec. 24 print issue of the Burbank Leader.
Photos by David Laurell / Burbak Leader
From reflective and poignant, to joyous and merry, the yuletide has been inspiring stories since Matthew and Luke chronicled the first one in their contributions to the canonical gospels.
While thousands upon thousands of stories of the season have undoubtedly been lost to the ages over the years, the 19th and 20th centuries provided us with a treasure trove of Christmas-inspired tales by Charles Dickens, O. Henry, Hans Christian Andersen, Robert L. May, Dr. Seuss and Clement Clarke Moore, who may or may not have written “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas.”
This past week, another 10 storytellers and songwriters have added to the anthology of holiday tales by presenting their personal memories and takes on “the most wonderful time of the year,” by serving as cast members in the Suzanne Weerts produced and directed show “Jingle Tales (& Tunes) An Evening of Seasonal Stories and Songs Served On The Rocks.”
Presented at the Colony Theatre, the show which benefitted the Family Service Agency of Burbank, may not have included wordsmiths as famous as the literary legends mentioned above, although one of the presenters, Kelly Carlin, carries on the tradition of telling a well-crafted story just as her famous and legendary father did for close to 50 years.
The daughter of the late comedian George Carlin, whose counterculture comedy and social commentary earned him a billing with the best of those who have transformed letters into words, and words into sentences to create some of the most humorous, edgy, and provocative material ever presented, Kelly kept the family tradition alive in last week show.
Offering up an autobiographical tale whose title (like her father’s famous seven words you can’t say on television) can’t be published in this newspaper, Kelly reminisced on a verity of challenges she and her parents dealt with through the lens of the “liminal,” defined in most dictionaries as “a threshold, or being in an intermediate state, phase or condition.”
From still coming to terms with the 1997 loss of her mother who “was Christmas” for her, to a special phone conversation she had with her father just days before he died in 2008, Kelly has embraced the liminal as a recurring phase of life that is a “strange and mostly uncomfortable place where the old ways are dying, and the new ones have not yet been born.”
Just prior to taking the stage for the evening’s show, after the cast stood in a semi-circle and, upon Weerts prompting, shared what was the most special holiday gift they had ever received with each other, Kelly took a few moments to reminisce about her father.
“If he was still here today and saw what was currently going on in our country and the world, he would say: ‘I tried to tell you,’” she said with a laugh.
“Back 15 or 20 years ago, most people were not willing to accept the unvarnished truth he would talk about – about where we were headed and what we are now living through,” she said. “But, at least we are all still here trying to get by. Some of us do that by telling our stories, sharing our human experiences with one another, and allowing others to see things through someone else’s eyes. That’s what storytelling is. It’s giving a gift. It’s sharing.”
Along with the sharing of stories, the evening included a musical performance by singer, musician and songwriter Arielle Silver who had told her fellow cast members that among the instruments she would be playing that evening would be an R13 Buffet clarinet that was given to her when she was a child.
“It had been bought by my folks with the help of my extended family of aunts, uncles and grandparents,” Silver said. “Over the years it taught me how to breathe, how to channel anger and sadness into art, how to be a beginner again and again, how to set goals and work toward them.”
Along with Carlin and Silver, last week’s cast also included Alex Stein, Ron Hart, Pam Singer Bassuk, Bryan Kett, Ellen Switkes, Brenda Haynes, Mike Lambert and Rena Strober.
From the bonds of friendship and the loss of a special friend, to a high school boy making up a holiday to impress a girl, a hilarious Hanukah song, and a tale of sibling forgiveness, the evening was a reminder to everyone that, no matter who we are, we have all received the greatest of gifts throughout our lives — greater than any we will find under the tree tomorrow — the gift of memories that make up the unique story of our life.
DAVID LAURELL may be reached by email at email@example.com or (818) 563-1007.