Having agreed to see some holiday shows and blog about why people go to them, I had what passes (around my house) for a great idea. I’d go to three shows that were like Scrooge’s visitors — Christmas Past, Present, and Future. It was no stretch to cast me as Scrooge for literary purposes, in light of my recent break-down in Trader Joes over the obscenely early Christmas music.

Like most writers, I prefer having a nice, neat organizing principle to having something to say, so this seemed an ideal approach. Since I’d just seen Fat Man Crying, Joseph Scrimshaw’s laugh-riot about a depressed Santa, a dancing Rabbi, and the nicest guy in the world (playing at the Theater Garage through December 20th), that would be Christmas Present, and I would be off to the proverbial races, needing only to attend something that had been around forever (Past) and something futuruistic (Duh) to score the trifecta.

Then MinnesotaPlaylist reported that someone was already blogging Fat Man Crying,and I was screwed.

How deeply and thoroughly screwed I did not immediately realize. But I’ve given it some thought now, and I’m pretty sure Fat Man Crying is the only holiday play I’ve ever seen. Not counting grade school and church pageants.

There were no plays where I grew up, holiday or otherwise. No fast food either, for two hours of solid driving any way you went. It was a place very like where The Beverly Hillbillies lived before they found the oil, a place where raccoons were eaten, and the main occupation was turning the millions of acres of pine trees into lumber. Not a place where a tree in the living room was a cause for excitement.

So really, I know absolutely nothing about holiday plays, and it’s a deep ignorance of long standing. Luckily I happened to be having coffee with Barbara Field yesterday.

Barbara wrote the version of The Christmas Carol that’s been playing at the Guthrie Theater since the Thursday following The Nativity. Her theory is that people go to holiday plays because “they know how they’ll end and they can take their kids.” Which seem like reasonable reasons to go to the theater. Or to stay away, for that matter.

My own guess, thus far, having seen only the one holiday play but many holidays, is that when people get a couple of drinks in them, they want at least to have the chance of seeing something wonderful.

And the theater, or bits of it anyway, is like a game preserve in a shrinking corner of the entertainment universe where there’s still a pretense that something wonderful might happen, tonight, right before your eyes.

Or in my case, tomorrow, when I will consume twice as many holiday plays as I have in the entire rest of my life, seeing Black Nativity (The Past) and A Klingon Christmas Carol (The Future), in one day. Having made a detailed study of the advertising, the reviews, and biographies in brief of all participants, miracles are expected, extraordinary demonstrations assured.

Sorry I didn’t get you a Present.