The Bard’s Town Theatre closes its second season this month with “The Kings of Christmas,” an original holiday comedy written by executive director Doug Schutte. Directed by Schutte and artistic director Scot Atkinson, “The Kings of Christmas” uses a narrative framework loosely based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to help a frustrated young man come to terms with his eccentric family and regain his Christmas spirit.
The Kings are “a family that would make anyone feel good about their own family,” says Schutte, and Christmas with the strange clan means dealing with the mystery of a dead cat named Marley, the ghost of their patriarch (an Elvis-impersonating magician) and Carter’s own Scrooge-like attitude.
“I wouldn’t say that it pokes fun at—but it does a little bit—the model of Christmas stories like ‘A Christmas Carol’,” says Schutte. “It’s kind of the alt-Christmas story. The themes are still there, but you get them in an odd way.”
The irreverent Christmas play has unorthodox origins. When Schutte taught high school, he used to write one- and two-minute scripts for his students—meaty enough for them to focus on character, but short enough that they could memorize them easily. At the same time, he had an online news alert activated to send him links to stories that were relevant to his interests.
One day, a news story about an elderly woman in Florida came through his inbox, and a new short script was born.
“Her cat had gotten wet and she put it in the microwave to dry it,” he says. “There were two things at play here. I was taken aback by the story, and I was taken aback that Google thought this was a relevant story to me.”
That became a very short play about one brother who put a wet cat into a microwave to dry it off and his older brother who freaks out because Mom is going to be home any minute.
“This is probably a decade ago. For whatever reason, that two-minute script was in my head when I started thinking about a Christmas play,” says Schutte.
“The Kings of Christmas” opens Thursday and runs through December 23 at The Bard’s Town (1801 Bardstown Rd.).