buy nothing christmas '03
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Activist sings praises of buy-nothing crusade

By Kevin Prokosh

From Winnipeg 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 year.

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 message."

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 singing."

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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