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One of Santa's killers revealed!


Rick Pendzich 

25 DAYS until the opening of Who Killed Santa?

Who Killed Santa?, that loveable, laughable, whimsical show about the bloody murder of the man with a jelly like belly will soon be upon us. Like a ribbon in the wind, I am atwitter with anticipation.

Who Killed Santa? is a comedy-musical-murder-mystery of the most audacious variety. Tiny Tim, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, The Little Drummer Boy and Chastity (the um, little drummer girl) have come to the North Pole two days before Christmas to let loose at Santa’s annual holiday bash. One of them lets loose just a little too much and winds up with dead Kris Kringle on their hands. All the characters except Santa are represented by puppets, manipulated and voiced by actors/puppeteers. And the best part? You the audience gets to decide which puppetrator did the deed. Hatched from the mind of playwright Neil Haven, Who Killed Santa? is going to be gut-busting-laughter of a time and Milwaukee Theatre Examiner is celebrating right up to opening night performance.

For your reading pleasure today we have an in depth profile of actor/puppeteer Rick Pendzich. Pendzich is new to the Who Killed Santa? cast this year and he’s going to be stepping into some mighty big actor shoes. His role of The Little Drummer Boy in Santa’s ‘08 production was previously played by the entertaining tour de force Travis A. Knight. But, if Pendzich’s comedic yet genuine performance as the Principal in First Stage Children's Theatre Company’s production of Junie B Jones and a Little Monkey Business is any indication, then The Little Drummer Boy characterization and puppeteering is in good hands, literally.

How long have you been working in Milwaukee?

I graduated from UW-Whitewater in 2003. I did an internship at American Players Theatre, and then I came back to Milwaukee. I've been doing theatre here ever since.

What might we have just seen you in? What was your role? What was the experience like?

I did another one of Neil Haven’s plays, Get A Life, that was performed at the Brumder Mansion in 2007. I played Marcus, a guy who moves into a new apartment, only to find that it's haunted by the ghost of a porn star. I had been at the first readings when Neil was writing the play, so I really got to see the script grow from the initial idea to the final product. This was the first time I had premiered a show. It was really cool to know that you were telling people a story that they hadn't heard before. It was also cool to know that a buddy of yours had written it. I was really proud of Neil.

Steve aka The Little Drummer Boy 

Tell us a little bit about your role in Who Killed Santa?

I play Steve a.k.a. The Little Drummer Boy. Struggling with issues from his past, Steve's been trying to recapture some of his former Christmas glory. Now he finds out that Santa has some new plans for this Christmas. Plans that don't seem to include Steve.

How did you get started in acting/writing/theatre in the first place?

When I was in Middle School, I went to see the High School's production of The Unsinkable Molly Brown. I was quite an out-of-control kid. While watching the show, I remember thinking, "This is what I should be doing. This is where I can put all my extra energy." When I got to High School I started doing theatre. It helped a little.

What’s been one your favorite roles/shows?

I really enjoyed doing Brighton Beach Memoirs at Milwaukee Chamber Theatre. I played Stanley, the older brother. It was a great cast, and we really formed specific relationships on stage. I like roles that I can really sink my teeth into.

What’s been one of your favorite rehearsal/performance moments?

It's kind of general, but I love when something happens in rehearsal that makes me feel like I've made a leap. It might be an insight to my character or to my acting process. Sometimes it's something another actor does or something the director wants me to do. It could be a new facet to a relationship. Those little "eureka" moments are what it's all about for me.

Do you have any sort of pre-show routine?

I just try to warm-up physically and vocally. I hate when I'm unable to give 100%. If I'm vocally warm, I know I won't be tripping over a difficult phrase. If I'm physically warm, I know my body has a larger vocabulary to tell the story with. I like to walk on stage feeling ready for anything that could happen. Some days, especially early in the morning, this is harder than usual.

What do you do when you’re not performing?

I only do theatre to support my love of delivering pizza. I live that dream at Toppers Pizza in Wauwatosa.

What’s the weirdest / funniest / most awful thing that’s ever happened to you on stage?

When I was doing Brighton Beach Memoirs there was a dinner scene where the actors ate together on stage. Each actor carried their own plate of food on in the black-out, and more food was on the table in serving bowls. I must have forgotten to eat before the show or something, because I scarfed down my plate quicker than usual. I figured "what would a teenage boy do in this situation?" I spooned up some seconds from the serving bowls. What I didn't know was since no one had ever done that, the stage crew had been re-using the same food for the serving bowls for multiple performances. Needless to say, my first bite of that second helping of green beans was hard to get down.

What is it that excites you about Milwaukee Theatre?

I love the sense of family in the Milwaukee Theatre Community. We're always happy to meet a new member. I've known a lot of interns in Milwaukee who were from out-of-state, didn't have plans to stick around when the internship was over, and ended up falling in love with the community we have here.

What show/performance/project is next for you?

My next role is Mark in Rent. I'm really excited for it. It will be my first show with Skylight Opera Theatre and Rent has a lot of built-in excitement anyway.

What else would you like us to know about yourself or Who Killed Santa?

This show is a great time. You get the magic of live theatre and the freedom of not taking yourself too seriously. It's like a twisted sort of therapy, and it's a great way to laugh away those holiday calories.

Who Killed Santa? runs December 4th through December 27th 2009 at the Bay View Brew Haus.
2535 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. The show is co-directed by Laurie Birmingham and Dan Katula and features Amy Geyser, Bo Johnson, Rick Pendzich, Sophia Petropoulos, Nate Press, and Liz Shipe. Curtain times are 8:00pm Fridays, 4:00pm and 8:00pm Saturdays, and 7:00pm Sundays. No performance on December 25th.

To reserve tickets call 414-839-7801 or email Due to limited seating reservations are highly recommended.

I would say the tickets make great Christmas gifts, but since Santa’s dead, well...I guess you’ll just have to buy your own! Only $20. ($10 for students.) That’s less than 5 dollars a puppet! Where can you get puppets for less than that? (Socks don’t count.)

For more useful (useless) information and an eclectic hodgepodge of stuff including more photos, discussions, and silly posts visit the official Facebook Fan Page: Santa Slayers Inc.