By Cristina Paolozzi, November 24 2020—
In its seventh year of running, Forte Theatre’s production of Naughty… but Nice will be available to stream online from Dec. 4-20. This performance features sketches and songs which offer audiences a unique and risqué experience that holds up to its success as a long-running local holiday celebration.
Although many events and festivals in Calgary’s art scene have had to adapt to the current global pandemic, Naughty…but Nice promises a way to experience holiday joy with friends at home. Scott Olynek, an actor in this year’s production, sat down with the Gauntlet to speak more about the show and the experiences of actors in local theatre during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Olynek explains that the show is all about Christmas, but it is told in a way that, as the title implies, is a little bit naughty and a little bit nice.
“The show’s a riot because it really kind of covers all the bases — you’ve got a lot of sweet touching moments that are very wonderful and very true to what Christmastime can be for people, and you also get a lot of, maybe a little more racey, or a little bit more frustrating side of it, which can also be true for some people. So, I think there’s a lot of truth in the stories that are told through the different songs or themes which is pretty awesome.”
Olynek furthers this by saying that, while the show might not be suitable for younger audiences, there are universal themes that many people can relate to.
“Even if you haven’t personally gone through that sweet or sour or naughty or nice experience that we speak about, you can probably still identify it and probably still get a chuckle out of it, or a cheer out of it.”
Olynek also speaks to the changes the production needed to make in order to ensure that theatregoers could enjoy this show safely amidst the global pandemic, and what this adds to the performance.
“The major and most obvious one is that we won’t be able to do it in person. There’s no live shows. That is definitely a major adjustment. And, so from that standpoint, the next best solution was to do a recording. All the songs were tacked, and we got a fantastic production team involved. So it’s kind of a combination of more theatrical storytelling — we are still doing it in a theatre for the most part — but then there’s more of a cinematic quality to it. What we’re hoping we get from it is a bit of like an SNL feel. Just that sort of feeling of ‘we’re shooting this live, let’s see what happens!’”
In its seventh year running, Olynek describes why he believes this show has been so successful over the past near-decade.
“This show started out as just a little fun thing to do for an alternative Christmas show. Joe Slabe, who runs Forte Theatre, conceived of it. He and J.P. [Thibodeau], the director, put this show on. As the years have gone on, even with that first year, they had a lot of great feedback. I think that [it’s] a combination of the audience wanting more and consistently coming back — we have fans that have come to [the show] every single year. Also, it’s the fact that it’s a format of a show that they can play with. It’s always kind of similar to the year before, but there’s always new songs, or there’s new players involved or there’s a new way to tell the story.”
Olynek also details how Naughty…but Nice has become a holiday tradition for many Calgarians.
“I think it’s become this really cool ‘alternative Christmas Carol tradition.’ You have people who have been going to A Christmas Carol every year with their family because that’s what they do. And this show has become that in its own way. It’s only been seven years so far, but it’ll keep on going. And maybe it’s not the show that people bring their entire family, or young children to, but they bring their grown family or their family of friends. To see each year the people that come back […] you recognize them and you talk to them after the show every year, it’s been really special that way.”
As a member of Calgary’s theatre community, Olynek also spoke about the importance that theatre plays in the city, as well as what the arts community has been struggling with the most since the pandemic hit.
“Obviously, there’s a lot of things we could talk about with COVID, but I think one of the major things is a sense of community. Right now we can’t go to any live performances as an audience, so there is this sense of community that’s missing.”
Olynek views that “from the standpoint of the specific theatregoing community, and the theatre-performing community,” even if there are individuals who don’t typically interact with the arts community, they are still affected by this sudden adaptation from performers and artists, “because of course I realize that not every person goes to live theatre. But even those that don’t are affected peripherally. The arts are something that affect everyone whether directly or indirectly and [there is a] sense of this larger community needing to find its footing again because right now I think it’s lost.”
Olynek reveals what he’s most looking forward to in this year’s performance of Naughty…but Nice, and jokes that he is curious to see a recording of his own performance.
“This is going to be weird — either you’ve heard this before or you’ll hear again in the future — a lot of times performers don’t like to see themselves or hear themselves or watch themselves. So I’m saying this with that as a precursor. But I’m kind of looking forward to sitting on the coach, with the family maybe, and watching the show, you know? Because of course you never get to watch the shows that you’re in.”
Olynek also describes the advantage as a performer this online platform will have for his friends and family around the world.
“The other thing that I’m also really looking forward to is hearing from my friends and family that don’t live in Calgary that have never seen the show, even though they hear about it and see it on social media.”
Make sure to catch Scott Olynek in this years’ performance of Naughty…but Nice online from Dec. 4–20.