Bloomfield actor pens play of Christmas sketches

Photo by Daniel Jackovino
Nelson Valentin has hopes that his collection of Christmas tales, or part of them, might be presented next Christmas at Nutley Little Theater, in Nutley.

BLOOMFIELD, NJ — Is there enough holiday cheer to go around? Bloomfield resident Nelson Valentin does not think so. A member of the Nutley Little Theatre, Valentin has had enough of Christmas chestnuts like “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” He’s not a bah-humbug kind of guy. He just wanted something new, but still a celebration of Christmas. So he wrote it.

“I’ve always acted, but I really wanted to write something,” he said this past weekend in a Bloomfield coffee shop. “That’s why I haven’t done a show in over a year. I wanted to concentrate on this script.”

Valentin appeared last year at the Little Theatre in “The Fox in the Fairway” and previously in “Noises Off” and “Cyrano,” among others.

What he has written is a dozen sketches titled, “A Very Sketchy Christmas: An Unstable Comedy in Two Acts.” One of the sketches will be performed tomorrow night, Nov. 30, at the monthly NLT meeting. Valentin is hoping it wins enough approval to be considered next year for the Christmastime fundraiser that the theater annually presents.

“I’ve wanted to write before I wanted to act,” he said. “I’d watch TV and my biggest influence was ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I’d watch a skit and think how I would have done it.

A year ago, he said NLT was doing a drama, “Blackbirds,” for its 2017 holiday fundraiser. He had been writing fragments of sketches.

“I really started writing in earnest when I thought they were doing ‘Blackbird,’” he said. “I thought there should be something lighthearted that reminded people of Christmas and even Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.”

Valentin finds his inspiration in other shows, stories related to him or just from walking around. A friend told him about eating the world’s worst Christmas cookies and that was worked into a skit. Watching “Santa Claus Versus the Martians,” a movie he calls campy, Valentin wondered if it could be mined for sketch material. He thought a good idea would be to personify the holidays and have them undergo mental health therapy. In a Christmas tree lot, he considered conversations trees would have.

“No one can look at my show and say I stole anything,” he said. “I thought out of the box.”
The sketch to be performed tomorrow night is “Santa Versus the Valley Elves.”

“It was my firstborn sketch,” Valentin said. “I was in such a zone for it. I feel like the parent whose kid has just learned to walk.”
In the sketch, Santa has hired two female elves from the valley section of the North Pole.

“They’re older women who still think they’re 20 and talk like teenagers,” he said. “But the way I wrote it, I wanted the audience to like them. They aren’t vapid. Their type of doing a good job is what they think, not what Santa thinks. But they’re not nasty.”

The sketch has a cast of five including Valentin. It is being directed by Alex Oleksij who directed “The Heiress,” the most recent NLT production.

“I didn’t want to be in the sketch,” Valentin said. “I didn’t want my actors to be influenced by me. I thought the cast would look to me, but that’s what the director is there for. It happened and I told the actors to look to Alex for direction. He has great ideas for comedy. He’s made my sketch better.”

Valentin said he has complete confidence in Oleksij even though what is taking shape may not always be what he wrote.
“In fact, he’s added a line that was very funny,” Valentin said. “He’s added four or five lines that worked.”
Valentin’s acting experience has helped him write because he asks himself two questions an actor would when reading for a part: Will this be fun? Will I have a good time?

“Those two questions have to be answered,” he said. “When I ask those questions, it helps.”
In this first sketch, Valentin will play an elf who has lost his voice after being traumatized by the valley elves. Other characters include Santa and the managing elf.

When rehearsals began, Valentin wondered if the skit would be funny. But when the actors started fleshing-out their roles and putting their own spin on things, and with Oleksij directing, Valentin thought it was working out.

“It felt good watching it take shape,” he said. “It was a fantastic experience to watch my work performed.”
Although he realizes the skits, in part or whole, may be not be accepted for further consideration, except for one skit, child-appropriate. The running time of the sketches is 90 minutes.

“There is one sketch where the dialogue is a little ‘blue’ and would go over the kids’ heads,” he said. “I would definitely let all my nieces and nephews see it.”

If the show is produced, there would be music. At the opening and closing curtains, “Jingle Bells” is sung, but with different lyrics. Valentin is trying to find eclectic Christmas music to use during the show.

“I am hoping ‘A Very Sketch Christmas’ will be next year’s Christmas fundraiser,” Valentin said. “This is my gift to the Little Theatre. They’ve given me a lot for all the years I’ve been there. A new show is a hard sell, but a new Christmas show isn’t.”
The annual NLT holiday fundraiser this year is “Parallel Live.” It will be presented Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 9 and 15 at 2 p.m.

does not think so. A member of the Nutley Little Theatre, Valentin has had enough of Christmas chestnuts like “A Christmas Carol,” “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street.” He’s not a bah-humbug kind of guy. He just wanted something new, but still a celebration of Christmas. So he wrote it.

“I’ve always acted, but I really wanted to write something,” he said this past weekend in a Bloomfield coffee shop. “That’s why I haven’t done a show in over a year. I wanted to concentrate on this script.”

Valentin appeared last year at the Little Theatre in “The Fox in the Fairway” and previously in “Noises Off” and “Cyrano,” among others.

What he has written is a dozen sketches titled, “A Very Sketchy Christmas: An Unstable Comedy in Two Acts.” One of the sketches will be performed tomorrow night, Nov. 30, at the monthly NLT meeting. Valentin is hoping it wins enough approval to be considered next year for the Christmastime fundraiser that the theater annually presents.
“I’ve wanted to write before I wanted to act,” he said. “I’d watch TV and my biggest influence was ‘Saturday Night Live.’ I’d watch a skit and think how I would have done it.

A year ago, he said NLT was doing a drama, “Blackbirds,” for its 2017 holiday fundraiser. He had been writing fragments of sketches.
“I really started writing in earnest when I thought they were doing ‘Blackbird,’” he said. “I thought there should be something lighthearted that reminded people of Christmas and even Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.”

Valentin finds his inspiration in other shows, stories related to him or just from walking around. A friend told him about eating the world’s worst Christmas cookies and that was worked into a skit. Watching “Santa Claus Versus the Martians,” a movie he calls campy, Valentin wondered if it could be mined for sketch material. He thought a good idea would be to personify the holidays and have them undergo mental health therapy. In a Christmas tree lot, he considered conversations trees would have.

“No one can look at my show and say I stole anything,” he said. “I thought out of the box.”
The sketch to be performed tomorrow night is “Santa Versus the Valley Elves.”
“It was my firstborn sketch,” Valentin said. “I was in such a zone for it. I feel like the parent whose kid has just learned to walk.”
In the sketch, Santa has hired two female elves from the valley section of the North Pole.

“They’re older women who still think they’re 20 and talk like teenagers,” he said. “But the way I wrote it, I wanted the audience to like them. They aren’t vapid. Their type of doing a good job is what they think, not what Santa thinks. But they’re not nasty.”

The sketch has a cast of five including Valentin. It is being directed by Alex Oleksij who directed “The Heiress,” the most recent NLT production.

“I didn’t want to be in the sketch,” Valentin said. “I didn’t want my actors to be influenced by me. I thought the cast would look to me, but that’s what the director is there for. It happened and I told the actors to look to Alex for direction. He has great ideas for comedy. He’s made my sketch better.”

Valentin said he has complete confidence in Oleksij even though what is taking shape may not always be what he wrote.
“In fact, he’s added a line that was very funny,” Valentin said. “He’s added four or five lines that worked.”

Valentin’s acting experience has helped him write because he asks himself two questions an actor would when reading for a part: Will this be fun? Will I have a good time?

“Those two questions have to be answered,” he said. “When I ask those questions, it helps.”
In this first sketch, Valentin will play an elf who has lost his voice after being traumatized by the valley elves. Other characters include Santa and the managing elf.

When rehearsals began, Valentin wondered if the skit would be funny. But when the actors started fleshing-out their roles and putting their own spin on things, and with Oleksij directing, Valentin thought it was working out.
“It felt good watching it take shape,” he said. “It was a fantastic experience to watch my work performed.”
Although he realizes the skits, in part or whole, may be not be accepted for further consideration, except for one skit, child-appropriate. The running time of the sketches is 90 minutes.

“There is one sketch where the dialogue is a little ‘blue’ and would go over the kids’ heads,” he said. “I would definitely let all my nieces and nephews see it.”

If the show is produced, there would be music. At the opening and closing curtains, “Jingle Bells” is sung, but with different lyrics. Valentin is trying to find eclectic Christmas music to use during the show.

“I am hoping ‘A Very Sketch Christmas’ will be next year’s Christmas fundraiser,” Valentin said. “This is my gift to the Little Theatre. They’ve given me a lot for all the years I’ve been there. A new show is a hard sell, but a new Christmas show isn’t.”
The annual NLT holiday fundraiser this year is “Parallel Live.” It will be presented Dec. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 9 and 15 at 2 p.m.

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