Harry Standjofski curates a collection Christmas stories for people who don’t like Christmas at the Centaur Theatre
Mid-December check-in point: How are you holding up? How are your Christmas spirit levels? Already deteriorating? If the blaring carols and crowded malls and kitsch decorations are starting to wear thin on you, take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone. There’s a club for people just like you: Urban Tales at the Centaur Theatre. Running from December 8 until December 17, Urban Tales is a selection of Christmas stories for people who don’t really like Christmas.
This year is the 10th anniversary of the satirical storytelling series at the Centaur, and the theme is An Undead Xmas. Each year, local writers create original stories which are performed by talented Montreal actors in a monologue style. In order to qualify, the stories need to take place in an urban setting, of course, and more specifically, in Montreal. Obviously, they aren’t allowed to try to push the holly jolly spirit on audience members, either.
Harry Standjofski has directed and curated all 10 years of Urban Tales. “When we first started this show, I would reach out to well-known writers in the community with a topic and get them to write a story for the shows,” said Harry. “And now, after a decade of shows, I get all kinds of submissions from people, more than we can actually use, which is great because we are able to gather a collection to look through and use in future years.”
The show started having theme a few years ago, with past themes including Ladies Night and an Erotic Christmas. “What I like about having a theme is giving the audience an idea of what to expect,” said Harry. “I like to call it a buffet of stories. All the tales are great, and you’re bound to really connect with at least a few.” This year’s An Undead Xmas features stories that will range from shiver-inducing to a few that will have you checking under the bed before you go to sleep.
Before Urban Tales existed there was Contes urbains at Théâtre Licorne, created by Yvan Bienvenue, which Harry got involved with in the 1990s. “Yvan thought it would be great idea to take the storytelling series to an English audience, so we worked together to create it,” said Harry. One of the stories in this year’s show, Emile 1976, is actually written by Yvan himself and translated by Harry.
“The French version of the show grew to be insanely popular,” said Harry. “And our show is growing every year. We have a dedicated audience that keeps coming back for more of our antidote to Christmas cheer.”
As for holiday spirit, Harry is not a complete Mr. Grinch, but he makes sure to avoid the consumerism of the season. “Once my kids grew up, I started getting tired of a holiday just for buying stuff,” he said. “So my holiday traditions are to curate this show, and then head to Cuba to get away from it all.”
For more information on Urban Tales, click here.