For those who love an irreverent, yet affectionate mix of naughty and nice in their holiday entertainment, Phoenix Theatre presents “A Very Phoenix Christmas 12: Up to Snow Good.” An annual production, this year’s edition will run Nov. 24 through Dec. 23 at the theatre’s Livia & Steve Russell Main Stage. Directed by Bryan Fonseca, the show combines sketches, music, dance and multimedia.
Included in the cast is Carlos Medina Maldonado, a relative newcomer to the Indy theatre community. He is originally from Puerto Rico and recently earned a BFA in acting from Illinois Wesleyan University. Recent Phoenix credits include Arturo in “The Golem of Havana” and Carlos in “How to Use a Knife.” Other credits include José in “The Three Javelinas” at the Magik Theatre in San Antonio, Texas, Felton et al. in “The Three Musketeers” at the Indiana Repertory Theatre, Valentine in “Twelfth Night,” Dogbreath in “Rodeo,” and Ensemble in “Hamlet,” all in the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.
Recently I sat down with Maldonado in the house of the Frank & Katrina Basile theatre at the Phoenix to chat about his background and the show.
How did you find your way to Indianapolis?
I used to be live in San Antonio, Texas. I received my BFA from Illinois Wesleyan University and then I found my way here through the IRT when I appeared in “The Three Musketeers” which was my first start here in Indy. Bryan (Fonseca) saw me in “Three Musketeers” and then called me in for an audition for “How to Use a Knife.”
How did you become an actor?
I started acting in the seventh grade when I was 12. At first, I did it for fun and enjoyed the experience of performing. When I was growing up, I was always fighting with my brother and convincing my mom that I was in the right and my brother was in the wrong. My mom always said I had that performing gene is me. I mostly acted in the community school system. The last year before going into high school, I got to do theatre and I kept doing it. I was in spring musicals every year and then started doing plays. In high school, I was lucky enough to have a voice teacher who encouraged me to perform. He said, “This is a career you can do. You have the talent to do this. It is just dependent on how hard you want to work for it.” Since that moment, I have pursued performance.
How did Indiana Repertory Theatre find you.?
Someone dropped out of “The Three Musketeers.” I had just finished up working at the Illinois Shakespeare Festival that summer. The fight director for “The Three Musketeers” was one of my professors at Illinois Wesleyan. He gave me a call and said, “Can you be in Indy within a couple of days?” and the next thing I knew, I was driving 18 hours from San Antonio to try to make it to that first rehearsal.
Are you able to make a living as an actor?
I have. When I left after “The Three Musketeers,” I was able to line up enough work and had eight months of consistent work. I was constantly working and that was a goal that I set for myself when I left college. I wanted to see if I could maintain that status. My goal is to keep going.
Do you have your Equity card?
I am an EMC (Equity Membership Candidate) and am still trying to gain some Equity points. Technically, because of the new rule changes, I think I have hit the mark, but I would like to extend it a little longer. I am only 23 years old. I don’t feel a rush to take my card right now. I have been very blessed to work with wonderful companies like the IRT and the Phoenix here and to work with Equity actors and engage with them.
Where are you living now?
I just moved here in July during “Golem” which is when I started looking to live here. When I was first here, I didn’t know anything about the city. I realized it was a nice town. It reminded me a lot of San Antonio. When I came here for the second time for “How to Use a Knife,” I came to realize how intricate and tight-knit the theatre community is and how people really hold each other up. I like that. By the third time I came here, I decided give Indy a chance and see if I could flourish here. When you join a community of good people, you want to stay.
Tell me about “A Very Phoenix Xmas 12.”
I play an assortment of characters in the show. It’s a variety of dances and sketches and songs. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of this process. I know it is the last Christmas show in this space and we have a pretty good mix of new people joining the show, as well as former cast members from previous Christmas shows. It’s going to be hysterical, but the greatness of this show is there is an underlying thought process that allows you to simultaneously laugh and think about your state of reality.
As in previous years, is the show a mix of comedy and some serious content?
There’s a pretty good mix. We have some great pieces that will pull at your heart strings and others that will knock you out laughing. There are 12 pieces in the show. The playwrights are mostly local. One is by Zack Neiditch. The sketch is called “Weekend at Santa’s” which I am in. It’s a bit of a folly piece and like “Weekend at Bernie’s.” Devan Mathias and I play characters that discover Santa is dead and are trying to figure out how to tell our child. She and I pretend he is alive in front of our five-year-old son. We also have a favorite we brought back this year titled “Elf’s Lament.” It’s the Barenaked Ladies’ song about elves being fed up with their wages and how they have been treated and how they want to start a protest against Santa Claus.
How do you like the holiday period?
It’s my personal favorite time. I love it. I always think of family during the holidays and I am lucky that my parents are coming up from San Antonio to see the show and my brother and sister who live in Chicago are coming down as well.
How do you find Indy audiences?
Indy audiences are very perceptive. They are also very sophisticated audiences. They don’t take anything on a surface level. They are well versed in theatre and understand scripts very well. They get nuances from the text, which I think is great.
What do you like about the Phoenix?
I like that it, at least in a creative sense, is constantly changing. I love that they are not afraid to take risks. That is one of the things that kept driving me to accept contracts here. The knowledge that anytime I came into this space, I knew I was going to be challenged with brand-new work and something that would challenge my own acting style.
What’s like working with Bryan Fonseca?
Bryan is an awesome guy. I love him and his directing style. He will allow you to just make a mess and go as far as you want to go and just try to refine. He is not a director who will say “No, that is not how that works.” He says “Oh, I like what you are thinking, but let’s try to refine it.” It genuinely feels like it is a true collaboration. He is good about letting one explore a space.
Who are some of the cast members?
Rob Johansen is one. He has been in every show in Indy that I have worked in. He is just an awesome talent. He is so funny and quick-witted. Devan Mathias is a phenomenal singer and actor. Whatever you throw at her, she’ll go with the flow. That is always an awesome thing to walk into and have ideas to bounce off one another. Nathan Robbins, he is another amazing actor and singer. Then there is Gayle Payne. She is an awesome singer. We are bringing back another of our favorites, “Les Miserabelves” where Gayle parodies all the songs from “Les Miz.” The cast of eight is star-studded.
Tell my readers all the reasons they should come to see the show.
One of the biggest reasons is that the show is not the norm. It is a different Christmas show than you will see anywhere else. It’s going to compel you. It’s going to make you feel very warm and cozy and it will challenge your status quo. If you are looking for a great laugh, this is an awesome show to see some zany and wacky things. It will also be the last Christmas show in this space and as the Phoenix always does with its Christmas show, it changes and allows creativity to flow and mixes new actors with former actors. They’ll see their favorite acts from former shows, as well as some new ones and everything they see, they will, without question, enjoy.
For tickets and information about “A Very Phoenix Xmas 12,” call (317) 635-7529 or visit phoenixtheatre.org