Saturday, December 13, 2008

Letters to Santa: a 147-hour benefit

Well, perhaps it clocked in slightly under 147 hours. More like twenty-six for me ... but isn't that basically the same thing? As it is every year, the 2008 Letters to Santa benefit at Second City in Chicago was a test of endurance. But the few (the proud) who attend the entire event get an experience unlike any other. This year there were intimate musical performances, special guest appearances, sketches about Michael McDonald and the world's fattest baby, outdoor caroling, interviews, a special video appearance from Stephen Colbert, free bagels, and football. All of this is provided on a 100% volunteer basis, and it all goes for a really terrific cause. Here is a brief, incomplete photo timeline:

12/9 10:14 p.m. (1.25 hours in): Bird Flu Extravaganza: a musical

10:23 p.m.: ASSSSCAT with Mick Napier and Tim Meadows

12/10 12:11 a.m.: Nina Nastasia. She got sick on the drive from New York and her voice was almost completely gone, but she still performed.

3:06 a.m.: Tim Midgett

4:30 a.m.: Outdoor field trip. We marched around the entire city block, over the ice and snow, singing the melody to "Carol of the Bells." The whole way. The photo quality represents pretty accurately my memory of the walk.

7:38 a.m.: Young Sofia Mia makes her annual before-school morning appearance. Here she is dancing in a musical about a dentist.

8:13 a.m.: Baked goods, costumes, and Babyco. The fireman's helmet appeared in a later sketch in which one of the actors uttered the phrase, "If you piss your pants, we all piss our pants. It's the fireman's code." I looked over at fire captain Dick. Dick: "That's true."

9:29 a.m.: Janet Bean, Sally Timms, and Jim Elkington

10:18 a.m.: This is the kind of thing that happens 13 hours in. There are contests to see who can be the fastest to push one actor, with another riding on his back, across the barrier between the front and back of the theater. You also see how stunningly crowded things are at this time.

12:04 p.m.: The Lonesome Organist one man band

2:34 p.m.: Robbie and Donna Fulks perform Robbie's annual Rap of the Dead

5:12 p.m.: Kim and Kelley Deal of The Breeders

5:58 p.m.: Town parade! Paul's favorite.

6:42 p.m.: Time for that heartwarming annual tradition: selling chances to peg Joe Canale in the balls with a football.

7:07 p.m.: Tullymonster, rocking. Before they were renamed by a clever young audience member.

7:53 p.m.: Stephen Colbert and Pete Grosz perform half an improv scene, taped and sent especially for Letters to Santa.

9:16 p.m.: Jeff Tweedy rummages through his wallet

10:03 p.m.: Red lights as the big charity auction begins. Jeff looks like I feel.

If I can help it, I will never miss this event. Six years and counting!

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