Shannon Holt, Sandra Tsing Loh and Tony Abatemarco.
Three veterans return to South Coast Repertory to take on myriad characters in playwright Sandra Tsing Loh’s Sugar Plum Fairy. In real life—as on stage—Sandra Tsing Loh, Tony Abatemarco and Shannon Holt are as hilarious as the comedy they bring to life on the Julianne Argyros Stage. Read on as they dish on their favorite holiday memories, the secret to their eggnog recipes and more.
NAME: Tony Abatemarco
Most recent SCR credits: Bach at Leipzig, Peter and the Starcatcher.
Other credits include: The Mystery of Irma Vep (The Tiffany Theatre); Red (International City Theatre); Wonderful Town (LA Opera); Lucifer’s Child (Broadway, as director); and “How to Get Away with Murder.”
My Sugar Plum character(s): Which one?! I've often been called upon to tickle many roles to life within any given play, and luckily, Sandra has seen this chameleon act of mine in full display over the years. So I'm thrilled to put my morphing abilities to full use in her Sugar Plum Fairy.
My favorite holiday memory: There are so many, but for its full-on ecstasy dividend, the Christmas Eve when I was nine, around 1961. My siblings were both newlywed adults by then and the table was set in my Mother's most extravagant style. Think Grand Opera. Think Act One, Traviata. Our family was at the height of its affluence somewhere in the upper quadrant of middle class and no expense was spared. In my memory, it's all shimmering gold as we sit down to sup on a splendid seafood meal in the Italian tradition. And I have pride-of-place as the only kid, with full license to participate in conversation without censorship or restriction. The gifts under the tree were secondary. The gift of acceptance into the circle of adults was present enough. Who needed Santa? I was glad to be rid of him.
My favorite holiday tradition: The food. No question. Christmas Eve seafood salad and baked, stuffed lobster, which I was assigned a very special function in the slaughter thereof. But, I'll spare my vegan friends the details in print. And then there was High Mass at Notre Dame, Paris 1981...
My best holiday gift: Okay, I'm getting all weepy. Life? Love? Health? The first My Name is Barbra album? But more recently, I bought my two teenaged nephews orchestra tickets to Hamilton with the proviso that there would be no more Christmas presents until they've hit 25. They loved it. Such a good feeling!
What makes my eggnog special: Nothing compares to what my Mom whipped up in her blender. Mine, alcohol free. Heaven.
Ballet or tap? Oh, lord. This is Sophie's Choice. Having seen Twyla's early works at Jacob's Pillow, and Savion Glover's Bring in Da Noise/Funk, and Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake, I'm stumped. Footnote: I studied tap for a bit in D.C. in the Stone Age and, after a few weeks, my teacher said, “I think you're more of a clogger.” So you decide.
NAME: Shannon Holt
Most recent SCR credits: Dead Man’s Cell Phone, The Madwoman in the Volvo.
Other credits include: Judgment at Nuremburg (L.A. Theatre Works, national tour); Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum and The Evidence Room; Trinity Repertory Company and The Public Theater; “ER”, “That ‘70s Show” and “Seinfeld.”
My Sugar Plum character(s): My character is an actress hired to help Sandra put on a Christmas show and I jump in and out of about nine fun character roles—I have many quick costume changes!
My favorite holiday memory: I’m five years old, waking up at 4 a.m. and seeing that Santa had been to our home—the cookies and milk eaten, the stockings filled and the toys he had left us. It was magical.
My favorite holiday tradition: Picking the tree and then decorating it
The best gift I received: My fancy Schwinn bicycle with the basket in front!
What makes my eggnog special: I go easy on the egg and hard on the nog!
Ballet or tap?: Ballet, of course!
NAME: Sandra Tsing Loh
Most recent SCR credit: The Madwoman in the Volvo.
Solo theatre credits include: Aliens in America; Bad Sex With Bud Kemp; I Worry; The Bitch is Back.
Writing credits include: The Madwoman in the Volvo: My Year of Raging Hormones.
How I balance acting and writing at the same time: The good thing about being an actor in your own work is that you can tell the playwright when the lines are unperformable! It's also a thrill to transform a solo piece into a trio—it's all the thrill of storytelling, but with room to breathe. And of course, I am such a fan of my two brilliant comic actors I am rooting for them to steal the show.
My favorite and worst holiday memory: Memory? Some might think it's weird, but I believe it's most Yule-fitting that my favorite and worst memories both occurred in the same Christmas. Without naming names, it was a “divorced dad” Christmas of someone very close to me. Picture the hasty, cramped holiday rental, several small bewildered children, and several collapsing air mattresses in unadorned rooms. For a catchphrase, think “a very CVS” Christmas—no regular grocery stores were open, so Christmas “dinner” was a helpful uncle's tuna casserole. And yet… it was a very magical tuna casserole. That year, a brilliant new Christmas tradition was introduced called “the Christmas Chicken” (it was a kind of wooden puppet from Pier One). Cookies were made from a mix, the Nutcracker Overture playing on the boom box, and a six-year-old boy, who need not be named here, turned to me and said, with complete simple sincerity, with no darkness on it: “This is my favorite music in the world.” So, in fact, a person of a certain age, having seen some of the things I've seen, I still believe in the enduring magic of Christmas magic and the Nutcracker, though I still make a point of avoiding, from November on, CVS.
My favorite holiday tradition? The Lohs pick up every instrument we can find—preferably ones we have no training in—and play Christmas carols together. Loudly (with a few show tunes thrown in). Have you heard of the Portsmouth Symphonia? If not, Google immediately.
The best gift: Nerf guns are always excellent to give AND to receive.
What makes my eggnog special: The pork. (To quote the late great Taylor Negron: "Pork is slimming.")
Ballet or tap? Let us say I began ballet, but find myself, over the years, inevitably, increasingly. . . (gasp). . . tap.
Learn more and purchase tickets for Sugar Plum Fairy.