While pantomime is not part of the festive season celebrations in North America, in England, Pantomime season traditionally starts on December 26th, or "Boxing Day" (the tradition gift-giving day in England) and continues throughout the festive season.
Fondly called, Panto, Pantomime is a lively musical theater tradition dating back for several centuries in England. Music, singing, dancing, bright costumes, hearty comedy, laughter, and a grand finale are essential ingredients for pantomime. In England, Pantomimes in England are almost always based on children's stories but it's great fun for people of all ages.
During this rehearsal for a Pantomime, a British director describes this tradition and more of the key elements that are part of the traditional Pantomime in England:
Panto is also popular in other countries that are member of the British Commonwealth. For example, for the past 17 years, Ross Petty, a former lead dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, has been putting on pantomime productions in Toronto based on fairy tales and popular children's stories. In Toronto, Pantomime runs from late November until early January and yes, there is a matinee on boxing day.
With a 70-year tradition, pantomime in Jamaica has been dramatically transformed and "Jamaicanized." Today, it has evolved into a lively production in patois retaining many of the traditional elements of British Pantomime but with a distinctly Jamaican flair.
If you're based in the U.S., there is no need to be left out. A number of theater companies are reviving this annual holiday tradition and bringing it to American communities:
- Pantomonium Productions (New York City)
- Panto Company USA (New Jersey) Since 1999, this touring company has featured Pantomime direct from the UK. Tours throughout the U.S. and available for private corporate and conference bookings.
- Picola Theater (Chicago)
- Penobscot Theatre Company (Maine)
- Waterworks Players (Virginia)
If you keep your eyes open, you'll sometimes even catch Jamaican pantomime in Toronto, New York City, London, England and other cities with sizeable West Indian populations. For example, in Toronto, the Heritage Singers in Toronto and Braata Productions in New York have put on pantomime productions.
There are a number of organizations where employees providing essential services work over the holidays. What better way to surprise them than with tickets to a pantomime? Also, with the "boxing week sales" that have essentially expanded Boxing Day to a week, one can easily make a case for Boxing Day events when employees return to the office after the Christmas break.
Photo Credit: Wally Grom