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Festivus: A Slightly Different Holiday Party

The Festivus “aluminum pole” was a centerpiece at last week’s Seinfeld-inspired party.

by Gene Marrano

It was indeed “A Festivus for the Rest of Us,” a Christmas party perhaps like no other at Kirk Avenue Music Hall last weekend. Inspired by the famous Seinfeld episode about an alternative holiday created by George Costanza’s father Frank, the local Festivus party was actually a brainchild of the Shadowbox microcinema, which operates out of Kirk Avenue Music Hall.

Like the Seinfeld episode it featured an aluminum pole – no Christmas tree, thank you – feats of strength (thumb wrestling in this case) and the airing of grievances. Co-organizer Sam Hensley, who helped Shadowbox director Jason Garnett get the party off the ground, was hoping that one hundred or more people would drift in and out of the music hall as the party got going.

In the background videos played on the Shadowbox screen, including a Pee Wee’s Playhouse episode (starring Pee Wee Herman) and, believe it or not, a really bad science fiction movie directed by none other than the late Kim Jung II, the North Korean Communist dictator who just died.

Hensley, who also calls himself a sculptor and furniture builder, has used discarded VHS tapes to create usable coffee tables (like the one at the CUPS coffee house) and other items. “I take them and glue them together [to] create art forms,” said Hensley. As for Festivus, he loved it when Garnett bounced the idea for a party off him.

“I’m a huge Seinfeld fan,” said Hensley. “We started planning this about three months ago and knew that we would keep to the three tenets of Festivus – the aluminum pole instead of a Christmas tree, the airing of grievances – where you tell people how they have disappointed you throughout the year – and the feats of strength. After [that’s] done that’s when Festivus is over.”

Those who got up to gripe during the airing of grievances talked about how hard it was to tear people away from their video games; they complained about local politics, students who don’t read the syllabus (a college teacher complained about that one, using somewhat colorful language), former employers (“the roof will fall on your head”) and Roanoke.

One woman complained about guys with tattoos and amorous advances from those who drink too much. “Please do not bring me your child when they are dirty…I will report you to CPS,” said one schoolteacher when she spent a few minutes at the microphone. Another didn’t care for the daily grind where he worked, and didn’t like the mundane conversations he encountered on the job. Yet another said a lawyer stole her iPod (“you have enough money to get your own”) while also complaining about The Simpsons TV show, which she said had run its course. “[They] need to let it die already.”

The Festivus episode on Seinfeld was inspired by a real life, similar event staged by the family of a production team member whenever they thought Christmas was getting out of hand. “We’re thankful for the people that come out,” said Hensley about those who showed up for Festivus, “but also for those that turn out for every Shadowbox event.”

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