Activist sings praises of buy-nothing crusade
By Kevin Prokosh
Free Press, Thursday, October 28 ,2004
AIDEN Enns wanted to publicize his buy-nothing Christmas
message and drew a paltry 20 people to his church presentation last
Undeterred, he decided if the people won't come to him, he would
go to them, and headed to the crowded malls in a Santa's cap to
sing anti-shopping Christmas carols. Enns and his anti-consumer
choristers got the boot.
If you want to reach lots of people in Winnipeg, you either have
to give away gas or put on a musical. Without an oil derrick in
his backyard, Enns opted for the latter choice, a 70-minute musical
harangue against excessive holiday shopping called A Christmas Karl.
"I'm pissed off how unconscious we are
about the high level of consumerism at Christmas," says Enns,
the show's producer who also portrays Karl. "It ruins my Christmas.
"I'm trying to find creative ways to rejuvenate the season.
The idea was to use theatre to reach more people with an important
These days if you want to head off the annual gift-giving binge,
aka Christmas shopping, you have to start before all the leaves
have fallen. Enns scheduled the premiere of A Christmas Karl for
Saturday at 8 p.m., the day before Halloween, at St. John's Cathedral,
135 Anderson Ave.
"We're doing it to get the jump on the Christmas advertising
rush," says Enns, an environmental educator. "I want people
to rethink their Christmas rituals. I hope people have a fun time
with their family, but not go into debt."
Written by Winnipeg playwright Scott Douglas, A Christmas Karl
focuses on a teenage activist named Chase who is desperate to end
her shopaholic mother's conspicuous consumption. She recruits her
boyfriend Simon to visit her mother in her dreams a la Dickens'
A Christmas Carol. Chase also finds she is vulnerable to the guidance
of a homeless man named Karl.
"For me the challenge to take these ideas from these sincere,
earnest committed people and make them not so earnest so it isn't
like sitting through a lecture," says Douglas, who has written
plays for Theatre Projects (The Harrowing) and the now-defunct Popular
Theatre Alliance of Manitoba (Between the Lines).
"It needs to be light and entertaining so a musical works.
It's hard to take yourself too seriously when you are dancing around
Although the medium is light-hearted, the message is serious for
Enns and his amateur cast, which also involves Janis Folkerts, Kim
Brown and Brent Hirose.
For the last four years, Enns has been involved in an international
campaign called Buy Nothing Christmas. Its e-mail list contains
about 2,000 names from people exchanging stories about de-stressing
through opting out of the Christmas shopping binge.
"I've identified our high level of consumption as a problem
for the environment and world peace," Enns says. "We have
so much and people in developing countries have so little. Because
I tell people that, I have been called a Grinch and a Scrooge. I
want to show people I know how to party."
In the spirit of the coming season, A Christmas Karl is a free
show, although patrons will be asked for donations to offset costs.
It will also be staged Tuesday at Crescent-Fort Rouge United Church,
Nov. 8 at Crossways in Common, Nov. 12 at St. Ignatius Church, Nov.
21 at St. Alban's Church, Nov. 27 at Bethel Mennonite Church and
Dec. 15 at Steinbach Regional Secondary School Theatre.
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