Gary Linehan, The Union Democrat

A new theatrical endeavor - the Footlight Theatre Company - will make its debut this weekend with the Christmas melodrama "Misdeeds at Mistletoe Mine, or The Sanity Clause!"

Artistic Director Anthony De Page, Executive Director Kendra Burlison and Administrative Director Diane Brown have formed the Columbia-based company as a nonprofit organization whose mission is to "provide superior quality theatrical productions showcasing local talent while enhancing and stimulating cultural and artistic enrichment in the Mother Lode region."

Founding board members include President Steve Kwasnicki, Vice President Megan Collier, Treasurer Doreen Kwasnicki and Secretary Tiffany Howard.

"This inaugural show will be a Wild West holiday celebration, complete with live music and plenty of audience participation," Burlison said. "Audiences will be transported back to 1890 upon entering Angelo's Hall into an evening with all the flavor of Columbia as it used to be - a night out complete with perilous action, tear-jerking drama, rip-roaring comedy and delightful singing."

The show will be held in Angelo's Hall at 11209State St. in Columbia State Historic Park.

Performances are scheduled at 7 p.m. this Friday and Saturday and again Friday through Sunday, Dec. 20 to 22.

Doors will open at 5:45 p.m. with caroling. Each performance will begin with an optional four-course dinner catered by Lila and Sage of Murphys, winners of television's 2012 "Cupcake Wars."

Dinner will begin with a roasted beet and mixed green salad with goat cheese, walnuts and honey vinaigrette, followed by cream of potato and leek soup, turkey breast with wild rice stuffing, roasted potatoes, Brussel sprouts, winter squash, and buttered rolls, and ending with apple cranberry bread pudding with caramel sauce.

A vegetarian option is available.

The meals will be accompanied by a variety show including short skits, musical olios and the Yule Falls Orphan Choir.

The melodrama will follow, with the audience encourated to boo, hiss and throw popcorn at the villain, cheer on the hero and sigh for the pure-as-the-driven-snow heroine.

Tickets are $40 for adults and $35 for children, which includes the opening entertainment, dinner, a complimentary glass of wine or other beverage and the performance.

Dinner tickets must be reserved in advance and are available at, Mountain Bookshop in The Junction shopping center, Jack Douglass Saloon in Columbia or by calling the Footlight box office at 588-6441.

A limited number of tickets for the show only are available for $15.

"Misdeeds at Mistletoe Mine" revolves around poor little Holly Hock, played by 12-year-old Raen Kuykendall.

Tragicallyorphaned after a mining accident took both her parents, she has inherited a gold mine with no gold and a hotel with no guests. Her aunt, Rose Bush, portrayed by Emma Brown, has taken both her and the failing business under her wing. When handsome Redmond Wood (Aaron Michael Bennett) rides into town, the future suddenly looks promising for Rose and Holly, but the villainous Mayor William Z.Lucifer, feloniously acted by none other than Stephen Damien Daly, has other plans.

With the help of femme fatale Chiquita Rosarita Ricardo (Sara Garcia), Mayor Lucifer concocts a plan to drive Red out of town and take custody of Holly, thereby inheriting the hotel and gold mine.

Rounding out the cast are Diane Brown as Sheriff Tucson Tessie, Anthony De Page as Diogenes and Daniel Jorgensen as the evening's master of ceremonies and narrator, Stubby Nuggets.

Will Rose lose custody of little Holly? Will Lucifer commit evil in Yule Falls? Can "Red" Wood save the day? Will Chiquita eat a banana?

Live music will be provided by Rick Moore of the local band the Hot Dark.

"Some may ask, 'Why start with melodrama?' " Burlison said. "The answer is simple: melodrama was a popular form of theater in the 19th century Sierra foothills, and in taking on the genre, we are looking to add to the true historical experience of the Mother Lode. We've also timed it to coincide with Columbia's annual Merry Merchants event so that families can make a full day of it."

De Page has been involved in the performing arts since he was 8 years old. He has acted, directed and stage managed more than 75 productions in theaters all over California and beyond. He also was formally educated in theater arts at Cal State Stanislaus.

Burlison has had a love affair with theater over the last 22 years and has expertise is melodrama, directing, marketing and graphic design. She has appeared in a number of plays with the former Calaveras County troupe the Black Bart Players, including "No Mother to Guide Her," "A Golden Fleecing," "On the Night of January the 16th," "Love, Sex and the IRS" and "White Sheep of the Family."

Brown has been involved with theater most of her adult life and earned a degree in theater arts from Cal State Stanislaus. She has performed in community theater in Calaveras County, Charleston, S.C., and Misawa, Japan.

Footlight Theatre Co. is also seeking to build a pool of artists, including actors, painters, musicians, builders and designers, as well as office help.

"The one thing I have always loved about theater is the way it is all encompassing," Burlison said. "No matter what your art form, there is a place for you."

"The theme of our first season is the area's striking history, and through suspenseful drama, classic comedy, musical melodrama, bone-chilling murder mysteries and historically accurate re-enactments in Columbia, we hope to educate and enrich our community about our eventful past and lively traditions," De Page added. "We are also planning two main stage productions in 2014."

"Footlight is the fulfillment of dreams that both Anthony and I have had for years," Burlison said. "Our goal is to produce quality stage productions that not only stimulate the physical senses, but the mind as well through plays with social and spiritual meaning. Through fine arts education and professional quality performances, we aim to further the cultural and artistic enrichment of our local community."

For more information, call 588-6441 or visit