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Oh holy night!

Members of Porch Theatre Company perform in ‘The Office Holiday Party.’ Courtesy photo.

The Office Holiday Party
Porch Theatre Company
Thurs., 12/15 • 7 p.m.
Brooklyn Arts Center
516 N. 4th St.
$50-60 • www.brooklynartsnc.com

Members of Porch Theatre Company perform in ‘The Office Holiday Party.’ Courtesy photo.

Ah, the office party. it’s that awkward soirée when we’re expected to blithely converse with coworkers—people whom, though we have a common bond through shared paper work, would probably never spend time with outside of the break room. Typically we’re met with some sort of cheesy team-building game, and if we’re lucky, it takes more brainpower than a 6-year-old can manage. We don’t hold our breath.

There’s always a questionable potluck dinner, too. One person might be the next Top Chef, but the rest serve store-bought sugar cookies with mountains of saccharine frosting or an unidentified dip.

There are a few bosses who get it, though. They are the ones who’ve booked the Porch Theatre Company (PTC) for a private, semi-scripted shindig. Known for producing such comedy and mystery dinner theater as “Mulligan’s Wake” and “Murder in the Library,” PTC brings shows off the stage and into the house to interact with the audience.

The group formed in Minneapolis, Minnesota, back in 2003. PTC moved to Wilmington in 2006, immediately taking off with performances around town.

“We do quite a few private parties each year, and the majority of them are office parties,” Suzzan Smith explains. “They have all been entertaining and some priceless. We have done three new murder mysteries this year, which adds some drama to the antics, but we wanted our holiday show to be just whimsical, campy fun.”

PTC will present “The Office Holiday Party,” a dinner theater comedy catered with a buffet of low-country gourmet from Middle of the Island. At Brooklyn Arts Center on Thursday, December 15th at 7 p.m., the show follows the Christmas party for 3Hole Paper Company—loosely based on NBC’s “The Office” and its fictitious paper company, Dunder Mifflin. Upon arrival, the audience will be assigned a position at 3Hole, such as in accounting, sales or warehouse. They’ll be under the direction of its regional manager, Daniel Tripp (played by Steve Rassin), a deluded and blindly insensitive leader, and his assistant, Marshall Steckle (Damond Nelson), a true brown-nosing sociopath.

Of course, no party is without a planner; thus folks will meet its senior accountant, Rochelle Martin (Suzzan Smith), who is all about the festive formalities. Rochelle’s attention to detail and numbers pays off in her role as head of the party-planning committee; she is a stickler for rules. She’s the cold and condescending type, according to Smith. On her committee is the angelic receptionist, Pam Coriander, played by Belinda Bizic.

The cast is completed by Maxwell Paige II, who performs as the indifferent warehouse foreman Warren Shoemaker, and John Markas, who plays the IT guru Gordon Mozzela, better known as Mozzie. Unfortunately, Mozzie still lives with his mom, Camille (Denise Bass), a sweet woman who just wants to desperately rid the house of her son. Naturally, the pent-up drama lends to the shenanigans for the evening.

This year’s holiday party for 3Hole Paper Company involves a dance contest, unusual games, karaoke and a full-blown “Twelve Days of Christmas” sing-along. “All of our shows offer the opportunity to interact via games, toasts, singing or dancing,” Smith says. “It is never required. Some audience members are there to get involved and be part of the show, and many want to just watch the action. Both are welcomed, and our actors are pretty good at reading the audience to know who wants to play along and who doesn’t.”

The stories are all developed by PTC hands alone, although the first draft usually sparks from one of Smith’s funny or unique observations. “We will then have a table read with cast members who will improv and add input,” she says. “During our rehearsal process, the script will grow with the actors…We literally cry from laughing at the improv.”

Still, the audience remains the star of every PTC show. “A script will usually get revised after a performance, because having the audience can bring out more funny that we did not see while rehearsing,” she shares. “We have had audience members be so amusing that we added what they said to the script. It is evolving, so it feels fun and fresh for the actors, and I hope the audience.”

Tickets for the comedy dinner theater “The Office Holiday Party” are $50 in advance or $60 on the day of the show, available at www.brooklynartsnc.com, 888-512-SHOW, or at the Brooklyn Arts Center box office. The cash bar will be open for the event. Doors open at 6 p.m. and seating is limited.

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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