The Christmas Party Show: 1979
© 1979 by Hugh Wreisner

As the guests arrive they find the apartment prepared much the same as in previous years but with a few subtle differences: An extra-large projection screen is blocking the great view of the skyline. The TREE is in its usual place, left of the screen ( unlighted, of course ) but it has no ornaments or tinsel and looks a bit naked and forlorn ( odd, in this rather extravagant setting ).

The wall screens are brightly lighted but are backed with plain, rough" cloth instead of the former "Japanese prints." The moon lantern is also brightly lighted and shines down on the coffee table which is covered with a bright RED cloth.

On the tokonoma is an arrangement of RED carnations, interspersed with a few RED foil flowers (which glitter ). A pink spotlight shines on them and accentuates the REDNESS. The tokonoma is reflected in a panel of RED foil which drops from ceiling to floor behind it.

At show time, the window shades are lowered, cutting off all light from the outside. The moon lantern is extinguished. the RED CURTAIN APPEARS ON THE HUGE SCREEN. The wall screens, unexpectedly, turn BLOOD RED and remain so through the show. The RED tokonoma remains on, only slightly dimmed.

The audience, as always, sits facing the screen, crushed together in this small space, most of them sitting on the floor like children. Perhaps a few are aware, and perhaps the others perceive it subliminally, that they have been crowded together in somewhat foetal positions surrounded by RED ....."the color" ( according to Ingmar Bergman) "of the interior of the soul". THE MUSIC BEGINS!

  High violins! An insistent beat! A large chorus sings "Something's Coming", the Stephen Sondheim song from "West Side Story". But they do not sing the words. Just "do doot DOO, do doot DOO etc. ( i.e. We have matter without form, you might say.)
  The RED CURTAIN is now the focus of all attention. Party, chatter begins to die out.
  The choral arrangement clearly divides the men from the women. On the release "around the corner" the sopranos come in sounding vaguely celestial. Simultaneously, a slide comes on: A 2nd-CENTURY BAS-RELIEF OF THE THREE KINGS PRESENTING THEIR GIFTS TO THE CHRISTCHILD, Then the red curtain returns, closer now, and the men resume.. singing. The show proper is about to begin.
  The music slows, softens, fades out ...The Red Curtain blurs.....
  The "HW" logo comes on, blurred, accompanied by a long-held chord in the brass. As the logo comes into focus the brass crescendoes with a sizzling overlay of cymbals. This lasts much longer than one would think necessary and kills all conversation, applause and laughter.
  The audience stares a bit uncomfortably at the "HW" as the cymbals rise to a deafening climax which suddenly becomes a crash of water. At the same time, a candle flame fills the screen ( so close it is blurred ). The water sounds continue: the slow, irregular rhythm of waves breaking on a beach and gurgling back into the sea.
HUGO: ((voiceover))
At Christmas time. In 1979. I had this extraordinary dream....
  ((For the following section, taking a cue from Bergman, I am providing here not the list of actual sounds and visuals, but an impressionistic description of them and of the effect they are intended to have.
  N O T E 1 : This section is, and is meant to be, dreamlike and ambiguous. Yet I have found, in repeated showings, that each viewer finds extremely explicit meaning in the separate images, their sequence, and the effect of the whole. So far as I know, no one has missed the point, although what the point is varies from person to person . It's a bit like a Rorschach test . . . . and no less revealing.
  NOTE 2: What follows here is NOT A VOICE-OVER. Not heard in actual performance. ))

" I WAS STARTLED BY A CANDLE FLAME, held dangerously close to my face. And I could hear water, splashing and receding, as on a beach. But I found myself walking...very small ... in gigantic folds of red silk. Sliding, stumbling, hard to get a foothold, slipping down the slope toward a great black hole. I thought I would slide into it and I was terrified!

But then, in that blackness I could see a light shining. . very brightly, but very far away. Across the darkness. I seemed to be in a long, narrow, twisting corridor. Underground, I think. It was very dark. I thought I heard church bells . . . and some kind of music. .Monks chanting ? All the sounds were strange, altered somehow . The candle was now burning on the stone floor, dripping wax. And then there were more candles, multiplying with every clang of the bells.

Weird-looking gargoyles appeared on the walls. Clouds of incense choked the air. Choked me ! It was oppressive and still very dark . . . even though the floor was thickly covered with burning candles. . . . . and I was afraid of the fire!

Then, suddenly, the whole space was flooded with soft sunlight. All the candles went out simultaneously ( Not so many as I had thought). Smoke rose from the wicks and mixed with the clouds of incense. A lizard/gargoyle stuck out his tongue at me. The bells and the music all faded away . . . . .

Before me, in the filtered sunlight, a long, long flight of ancient worn stone steps led up to a thick wooden door. I climbed the steps and leaned against the door, exhausted, trying to get my breath. It was locked !......No. But very hard to open. . . as if it had been closed for centuries. I pushed. . . hard, and managed to slip through and AT LAST ! outside in the fresh air!

It was very early morning, the sun just up .. Many birds singing. running water somewhere nearby. I seemed to be in a church or a monastery, but it was open to the sky, in ruins. "Bare ruined choirs". All the crumbled walls and arches were covered with vines an d grass and flowers. Wild flowers. On a faint footpath through the grass I confronted an ancient, stone Celtic cross. And then out of the sunrise a white dove flew at me. Through the blank ( but perfect ) arches of a gothic window I saw huge old trees, covered with blossoms. And then: I distinctly heard monks chanting:

Cantate Domino canticum novum
Quia mirabilia fecit
Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto
Sicut erat in principio .
Et nunc
Et semper
Et in saecula saeculorum

But then there was a chalice lying on the ground, its cup half filled with muddy water. And just beyond it, a large book in the grass, opened to its title page: "The Holy Gospel", spattered with mud.

I tried to wipe the mud off ( couldn't ) and then closed the book. The embroidered silk markers spilled from its pages and the gold cross on the cover glittered.

I puzzled over what it all meant ..............

Gospel. ...God Spell.... Good News.
((with his heart not in it)).... Well !
Closeup of book in grass. Gold cross shining on red leather.
[MGM CHORUS sings brightly, mindlessly:]  
It's Good News
You're bound to DO me good
Skull with one eye....
Come right here TO me good news Children being strafed in Vietnam... . .
(Good good news ! )  
Good News Elderly black man sobbing bitterly, being comforted by his wife.
You're what I waited for Sharecropper's wife (1930's) looking worried, emaciated, pathetic......
I wasn't slated for blues  
Good news is SO good to me Girl on bench in insane asylum, folded up, completely withdrawn.......
((Nonsense interpolation. i.e. sort of skat singing )) Young black man chained to a tree, being whipped ......
Bad news is NO good to me Soldier shooting prisoner in the head.. . . .
So Mister Good News  
You're bound to DO me good Parisian man breaking up as the Nazis march into Paris......
Come right here TO me Large buildings collapsing .......
Good Good News Child screaming under crushing adult hand....
Have you heard the good news ? Soldier in helmet holding dead baby....
Gonna be good news! Anguished Vietnam mother holding dead baby . . .
Gotta have good news! ! Young man peering up through binoculars....
So we're sayin': Deadly looking bomber flying at us. . . .
Bye Bye Bad news! A sea of smiling faces .......
Hello ! Goody good news!  
Hurray !  
"EXPLOSION !!" Hiroshima A-bomb ( vertical )
ANOTHER EXPLOSION!! H-bomb test (horizontal )
  Out of the din of the explosions a trumpet begins the Mancini music for the NBC nightly news. It is rhythmic and driving but rather solemn. Over this, cued to the music, we see the following titles:
  1. "Hugo Wreisner presents" ((Superimposed over a winged, heraldic horse, its front hooves on a large shield. ))
  2. "GOOD NEWS" ((Superimposed on another winged, stone horse which is flying away from the camera into the words. . . )) .
  ((Remaining titles are all superimposed on blue sky with milky white clouds. ))
  3. "with Jim Grant as the Reporter in Israel"
  4. "Hugo Wreisner as David Twinkly "
  5. " and introducing Eric F. Gegenheimer as the Christchild "
  6. "Song by Stephen Sondheim"
  7."Newsmusic by Henry Mancini "
  8. "Original story by . . . . ."
  9. "Matthew"
  10. "Mark"
  11. "Luke"
  12. "John"
  13. "Additional dialogue by Hugh and James
  14."Graphics by ( alphabetically )
      El Greco,
  15. Grunewald,
      Van Gogh,
  17."Production Assistants
      John Bonee
      Nina Gegenheimer
      Paul Gegenheimer
      Bill Guthrie
      Ron Henry
      Richard La Pata
      Alexander Moore
      Benjamin Russell
      Mary Seibel
      Dorothy Wreisner. . ."
  18. "and Jim Grant, whose skill and generosity made this production possible. "
  The news music ends and there is a sweep and tingle of a harp. We see:
  20. "with David Twinkly"
  The music now beginning is "We Three Kings" in several different(and unusual) arrangements. This is prominent through almost the entire scene and the actors have to fight it. We see David Twinkly siting, conservatively dressed in black, at his newsdesk. He has a sheaf of notes or script in front of him. Behind him, on the monitor screen, is the HBC News logo.
DAVID TWINKLY: He is laughing.
And finally tonight we have more on that curious story from Israel. All this week dozens of UFO sightings have been reported in and around Jerusalem. Now three Kings have arrived. Elaborately garbed and mounted on camels, they proceeded directly to a private conference with King Herod at the Hasmonean Palace...where they've been ever since. World-wide rumors are identifying them as visitors from outer space. But nobody really seems to know who they are. Details from Jim Grant in Jerusalem.  
Maybe not all the details, David, but we're doing the best we can. This morning at 10:45 Jerusalem time, three "magi" arrived here with what might be a political bombshell. They immediately entered a closed conference with King Herod at the Hasmonean Palace. Coming in the midst of numerous UFO sightings, these strange visitors have stirred up enormous curiosity. Jerusalem is a whirlwind of rumors and speculation, Newsmen, and television crews have been barred from the palace and hard facts are hard to come by. But here's the story as well as we can piece it together so far. The "magi" come from .. . "the east". We're not sure what that means. Perhaps Iran or Arabia. We're not sure. They claim they were guided here by a new star in the sky.
Jim Grant appears on the monitor. He is outdoors somewhere in modern Jerusalem, an HBC microphone in his hand. At first Jim? there is some electronic interference in both sound and picture (( while we switch carousels)) but this clears up quickly and he comes through clearly -- full screen.

Crowds of people in modern Jerusalem

More crowds in Jerusalem

A painting of one of the Three Kings, gazing off and up to his left, amazed.

That's the UFO ?
Not a UFO. The local observatory thinks there was some unusual conjunction of planets. There was definitely something though. In the sky.
The Second King ( black) elaborately garbed, indeed .
But this is not a 'close encounter of the third kind' .
Oh no. They're humans alright.
The Third King, wiping away a tear on a huge brocade drapery.
Well, what's the political bombshell ?
The bombshell is that they claim the new star announces the arrival of a new king.
Back to David Twinkly, turned toward his monitor.
Jim, our early reports identified these men themselves as "kings"
No no. We've got that checked out. They're not kings. And they're not extraterrestrials. They're ...well... ((fumbling)) the word here is "magi". It means.... . uh.. . . ."wise men".. . perhaps astrologers. guess is they're some kind of top-level scientists... scholars. Einstein, Adler, That type. Anyway, they're not kings. They've come looking for a king. The King of the Jews.
DAVID TWINKLY: ( a little interest now)
King of the Jews ? Are these magi Jewish?
No. That's the odd part of it.
Jim Grant looking confused
Well, what's that doing to the political picture there ?
Well , David, given the unstable situation here in the Mid-East, I think it could be political dynamite! The Jews have a figure in their legends. Referred to in very extravagant terms: "King of Kings", "Lord of Lords", "Prince of Peace". Even "Son of God". . . . Strong stuff.
Jim Grant looking concerned.

A fragment of Hebrew scripture. Authentic and very ancient.
If this guy fits the bill the people could pick up on it. It's possible Herod has the Magi in custody right now As a precaution. No one's seen them since they arrived. Another scripture fragment, closer. (( I think one of these is the John Rylands papyrus . . . . but who's to know ? ))
  A Hebrew Bible, opened to Isaiah IX, the page marker crossing the passage just men The light on it is slightly multi-colored. Through stained glass ?
DAVID TWINKLY: ( very interested )
Jim, is some kind of insurrection expected ?
JIM GRANT: (hard to know what to say) Full size MAP of contemporary Israel.
Well ...... Yeah. That's the feeling here. Some kind of revolutionary takeover. There's talk of it beginning in one of the suburbs. Bethlehem. That it'll be there. Could be. Who knows ?

Zooming in on Jerusalem.
Is this King of the Jews gathering an army there in Bethlehem ?
Closer . Audience may notice now Bethlehem is only about six miles south of Jerusalem.
No No ! No army David. The thought is, the fear is , that he'll be born there. Maybe tonight !
Ah! There's Bethlehem !
DAVID TWINKLY: ( laughing again )
Jim, are you saying this "revolutionary takeover" is going to be led by a new-born baby ?

BETHLEHEM. Unmistakable, in closeup.
JIM GRANT: (firm, serious, urgent, angry)
Well we don't know! What it is! But it's soon ! ! The air is humming here. Something's coming.

((He is more or less frustrated and ends his report on a "down"note )) Jim Grant. HBC News. Jerusalem.

And so . . . a UFO, or "a star", or some unusual heavenly body has been seen in Jerusalem.... Three strange men have arrived on camel back..... And some young lady in the suburbs there is going to have a baby. (( Chuckle chuckle )) And that's the news for tonight, December 24th, This is David Twinkly. Good night, for all of us at HBC News.
His picture returns. He is chuckling merrily.

The CHORUS starts singing softly. . . getting louder and louder .. . ." Could be .. .. . Could be ...... Who Knows ? . . . . Who knows .... ?

  Brass and strings make a solemn exclamation! ((The well-known motif from West Side Story)) A CHRISTMAS STAR appears on the monitor screen. Bongos start a terrific crescendo! David Twinkly is very startled!
Jesus !!
  The strange star fills the screen, flashing and whirling ... as the CHORUS begins the song.

(( NOTE 3: Here comes the finale, which is totally audio-visual and impossible to describe in any literary way.

  Accompanying the song are details from Great Paintings ( mostly faces ). I will indicate a few of them here. The general idea is that the faces are -- progressively -- puzzled, skeptical, awed and, finally, Joyful. ))


Could it be ?
Yes it could.
Something's coming
Something good
If I can wait

Cherubs whispering something to Isaiah. . .  (( Sistine Chapel ))

Picasso: Young man and woman talking ...

Something's coming
I don't know.
What it is
But it is
Gonna be great !

Grant Wood ( American Gothic )
With a click!
With a shock!
Phone 'll jingle
Door'll knock
Open the latch!

"Girl at Half-Opened Door"
Something's coming
Don't know when
But it's soon
Catch the moon
One-handed catch !

Gaugin native reaching UP !

Around the corner
Or whistling down the river
Come on!
Deliver !
To me ! !


Will it be ?
Yes it will.
Maybe just by
Holding still
It'll be there....

A sweet, Grunewald angel....

Child looking questioningly at adult. . . .

It'll be there ...
Maybe tonight . . . .

Another questioning child.
Maybe tonight . . . .
[Will it be?
Yes it will.
Maybe just by
Holding still
It'll be there.]
Orchestra EXPLODES ! ! Van Gogh stars whirl and flash!
MEN & WOMEN TOGETHER (( singing full out ! ))
Something's coming!
I don't know
What it is
But it is
Gonna be great!!

Actual photograph ( LIFE magazine) of a living, male human fetus, still in its amniotic sac .
Could it be?
Yes it could.
Something's coming
Something good.
Maybe tonight !
Orchestra explodes again! More Van Gogh stars, (From a different painting )
MEN & WOMEN (very excited )
Something's coming
Don't know when
But it's soon
Catch the moon
One handed catch !
Wonderfully happy faces !
The air is humming....
And something great
Is coming Come on.!
Deliver ! !
To ME ! ! !
Cherubs . . . and other angels.....
MEN: (getting softer )
Will it be ?
Yes it will !
Maybe just by .
Holding still
It'll be there....

Old Man(( a Rembrandt )) pondering the possibility; his doubt about to break into belief...

The Christchild! Closeup..

WOMEN: (softer )
It'll be there.....

Closeup of three shepherds, apparently looking at the Christchild, a different expression on each face.
MEN: (softer)
Maybe tonight ....
With each line now we see the Christchild. Each from a different painting. . . different styles. . .different periods. . . but in each He is represented by a naked infant simply lying on a cloth on the bare earth.
WOMEN:( even softer)
Maybe tonight.. . .
MEN: (very soft )

Who knows ? . . . .

WOMEN: ( very very soft)
Who knows ? . . . . .
MEN: (very very very soft )
Who knows ......... ?
Correggio:. MADONNA AND CHILD ((This is a rather familiar and very beautiful painting. voluptuous. I suppose I chose it Sensual out of a sort of reverence for the musical comedy /MGM musical traditions. For the first and only time in this production, the Madonna is " glamourous"; and the Baby is "cute". I wanted to make sure that everybody liked Him.))
  We hold on the beautiful Madonna as the bongos crescendo and de-crescendo... and fade into silence.
BOY's CHOIR: ( the melody is slightly altered; slightly askew. . .)

Hark! The herald angels sing!

Glory to the new born king !
There is a big KABOOM in the brass and we suddenly see a slide of a new-born baby boy...a real one: Eric F. Gegenheimer. Age 2 weeks. He is stretched out solemnly on a piece of red velvet, which is on a nest of straw and dried flowers ... which is on Hugo's tokonoma.

Hark! The herald angels sing !

Glory to the new born king !
The full orchestra and chorus now swirl up from below and repeat these two lines with a great flourish of trumpets, harps, etc. etc. etc.
  We see another slide of the Baby on the' Tokonoma but wrapped in swaddling clothes now( a diaper ) gazing out over the heads of the audience with a solemn, innocent stare.. . .
  Orchestra and chorus build up to a Grand Finale and with the final chords, the slide of the Baby blurs out and the Christmas tree is slowly lighted with 1000 tiny lights. . .