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Pandora Fills Niche with Irreverent, Gay-Themed Holiday Shows

Many of the arts season’s holiday shows are tried-and-true classics, but one Louisville theater company prefers a less reverent approach. Pandora Productions' plays and musicals typically examine some facet of LGBT life, and holiday programming is no exception. But when artistic director Michael Drury went looking for gay-themed Christmas fare to produce, he came away disappointed.“There just wasn’t much out there," says Drury. "But I did see other theater companies that have the same mission as we do were writing their own material with some very clever titles. And I thought gosh, if they can do that, we can do that.”So in 2005, the company created “Homo for the Holidays,” followed by “Don We Now Our Gay Apparel,” its sequel, “Don We Now More Gay Apparel” and last year's "Gays in Toyland." (I don’t think we’re in Victorian London anymore.) Pandora's audience regulars know what to expect from the company--between the serious plays like the Pulitzer Prize-winning "I Am My Own Wife" and "The Laramie Project," they'll find campy comedies and musicals like "Zanna, Don't!" and "Measure for Pleasure." Judging solely from the titles, it's a safe assumption that Pandora's holiday plays will fall into the latter category. But Drury says that isn't a consistently winning formula."'Don We Now More Gay Apparel' really sort of skated over the edge of good taste," he says. "We had lots of our audience say wow, you’ve gone too far this time. And our audience is really tolerant." The cheeky, original Pandora holiday play returned last week with  Jim Hesselman's “Velmaand Louise’s Holiday Balls,” in which two clueless Shively spinsters (played by men--Alex Craig and Jason Cooper) are forced to find a new shooting location for their annual cable access holiday special when their basement floods. They relocate to their nephew Nick's club, and worlds collide. “They don’t know it’s a gay bar. Nick’s partner Steve thinks it would be a great idea if they combined their two holiday shows into one show,” says Drury. "So there’s all kinds of weird denizens of the bar and some wacky characters in the Shively cable access show cast that merge together to produce all kinds of mayhem.”Lessons, of course, are learned on the true meaning of the holidays, like how love appears in many different forms and how peace and goodwill can bring two disparate groups together to celebrate in style.Evening and matinee performances run Thursday through Sunday this week in the Henry Clay Theatre (604 S. 3rd St.).