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Lights and Music and Theater and a Run or Two
Options for enjoying yourself, and helping others, this holiday season
by Suzi Steffen
Overwhelmed by the holidays? Eugene has approximately 8 zillion options to relieve your stress, ranging from outdoor events to the nostalgia of White Christmas to laughter from Santaland Diaries to the sweet strains of music floating over the city.
|The Eugene Ballet’s The Nutcracker opens Friday, Dec. 17|
|The Shedd’s White Christmas opens Friday, Dec. 3|
You might know much of this already. Oregon Mozart Players and their Candlelight Baroque concerts practically stand as an unbreakable Eugene tradition. The Turkey Trot, which in this city supports FOOD for Lane County, occurs early on Thanksgiving Day (though we kind of think it should be the day after Thanksgiving — running and/or walking off some of the holiday feast could be a great motivator). The Whiteaker Thanksgiving Dinner rocks a free and tasty community dinner (with some gift giveaways as well), and if you’ve got time, you might want to volunteer for and/or donate to the annual event, which attracts thousands — yes, thousands — to the Whiteaker School at 21 N. Grand. (Go to wcdinner.org to check out the donation wish list and volunteer opportunities.)
But music and theater aren’t the only options; classic ballet The Nutcracker hangs in there with incarnations ranging from the Eugene Ballet’s beautiful extravaganza (with the added bonus of holiday teas to make the little ones happy) to a 45-minute version by the Pacific Classical Ballet that should pack the Wildish Theater as well and provide some relief for parents worried about their 4-year-olds’ bladders for the big performance. The Oregon Ballet Foundation performs it four times as well, at LCC; so you can actually see The Nutcracker a dozen times this season in Eugene alone, if you have the stamina and the funding. “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies” will never, ever leave your head.
But it’s not all holiday dance; Ballet Fantastique performs String Theory Nov. 20 & 21 in the smaller Soreng Theater at the Hult Center, and despite an emergency involving Russian dancers being denied visas to the U.S., the company has original choreography and compositions enough to suit the dance-consuming public of Eugene.
Sure, the days’ light is shrinking down to, well, not enough, until the Solstice on Dec. 21, but lights shine from the Lane County Fairgrounds with the Holiday Market, which we know has some people rolling their eyes about hippies and others saving pennies or barter ideas for gift-buying chances. The Market (about which you’ll read more in next week’s Gift Guide) runs right up through 4 pm on Christmas Eve, and there’s really no better place in Eugene to encounter a mixture of Ducks fans, vegan foodies, tie-dyed revelers, musicians, poets, soap-makers and everything else that makes this town what it is. This year, the Farmers Market returns as well for much of the same time as the Holiday Market; let the root veggie-buying commence!
Once again, we look forward to the popular White Christmas from The Shedd, whose Bill Hulings/Shirley Andress pairing provides the juggernaut with a solidly grounded (but fun!) performing center. The Lord Leebrick, which took a break from holiday theatricals last year, picked the David Sedaris classic The Santaland Diaries, adapted by Joe Mantello for the stage, directed by Bobby Vrtis and performed by the UO’s Colin Lawrence (fresh off of Love’s Labors Lost) as Crumpet the Elf. That starts Dec. 3, as does the Very Little Theatre’s counter-programmed Lenny Bruce Is Back, but if you need cheer the weekend before, check out Actors Cabaret of Eugene’s Hairspray. It’s not holiday cheer, so to speak, but Hairspray captures generosity of spirit and ways to make the world a better place that couldn’t speak more clearly to the values of the return of the sun (or Son, if you prefer) and lights in the darkness.
Speaking of lights, take a trip with the Willamalane folks (or on your own) to Shore Acres, where the holiday light show and the winter-wild Oregon Coastal wave show combine to make a spectacular mashup of nature and culture. Or there’s the Junction City Parade of Lights, which makes its way to Harrisburg and Coburg as well this year, and of course we have the Festival of Trees at the Valley River Inn.
If you’re still looking for gifts, nothing says local and thoughtful like special objects from the many, many artists’ studio open houses and holiday sales; some of our faves have always been the 2nd & Blair artists (Dec. 3-5) and Ken Standhardt (the same weekend) sales, but we have a gazillion listed in the calendar this year, and we’re sure more artists will send in new listings to our regular calendar as well. Don’t miss Maude Kerns Art Center, ClaySpace, Eugene Glass School and other local spaces and their holiday sales/exhibits either.
At the end of the year, so we remember hearing in Les Miserables, you’re another year older … but slough that off with The First Run starting at the Valley River Inn and continuing along the Willamette River, either at 11:59 pm on NYE just after you celebrate the last of the year with the Eugene Opera’s La Bohème, or at 10 the next morning, when we’re sure you’ll be in tip-top running shape. OK, maybe we’ll do the 5K walk. Either way, it’s all too Eugene to eat local food, head to some local theatrical offerings and then hit the great outdoors. Happy holidays!