As a relative newcomer to the area, I was confused when I repeatedly heard the words ‘Truckee Follies’ being bandied about the office here at Moonshine Ink, as well as at various shops in town and emblazoned onto posters and ads everywhere I looked. The only ‘Follies’ I had ever heard of was the Silver Follies, an annual play performed by the over 50 crowd in my hometown. As it turns out, I wasn’t too far off — the Truckee Follies, according to its website, is a ‘tasteless theatrical revue that takes a look at local issues occurring around town’ to benefit the Truckee Downtown Merchants Association.

I sat down with Debbie Cole, director extraordinaire, for a crash course in all things Follies — an event that is bi-annual, despite what the poster says. Cole sums up the spirit of the event with a laugh, saying, ‘Stefanie’s [Olivieri, co-producer with Cliff Hartwell] favorite saying is that the Follies is responsible for two divorces and an unplanned pregnancy.’ Cole continues, summarizing the folklore of the show’s beginnings by saying, ‘[It] was born out of not having anything to do in the winter, a sort of Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland style ‘I know! We could put on a show.’’ This was in 1981, and the Follies ran successfully for a few years until a controversial land use measure, Measure M, ‘divided people and they took a break from the Follies because the two sides were like, you’re not funny.’

Since having switched to the biannual schedule, people’s tempers have tempered and the usage of the dreaded ‘F’ word has calmed. Now in its 18th performance, volunteers number close to 200, and 99 percent of them are unpaid. Cole says that she can’t think of anyone who has been asked to participate that has turned down the opportunity. The 2010 theme is ‘Boom or Bust.’ ‘[We are] trying to give an acknowledgement to the bad economy without being depressing,’ Cole said. ‘I think it was Ted Owens who said, ‘Well, Truckee’s always been a boom or bust town,’ and it went from there.’

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Writing for the show began in January, when the group started meeting every other week, discussing things that needed to be touched upon in the show. ‘I think people need to see that everyone takes an equal shot — MTV may take a lot of shots, but let’s attack a big corporation, who can be upset with that? The town will take shots. There is a very funny pothole, the library, the town council, people out of work,’ said Cole, ‘There is a whole group of us who write the skits. When MTV does things like they did, as Maia Schneider says, the Follies write themselves.’ Cole has been working with Schneider, Paul Raymore, Richard Anderson, Ted Owens, Jim Duffy, Dave Gravell, and others to put together the skits.  

The show has a two hour run time with an intermission and about 40 skits, but according to Cole things move quickly. ‘Some things are 15 to 20 seconds, some are two minutes, some are five minutes,’ said Cole. ‘We have a lot of real talent — true singing talent. Martha Simon and Larry Heifetz have adapted a Norah Jones song and a Santana song. We have a couple of a capella groups that are pretty talented. … [Superintendent] Steve Jennings is actually in the play, and we are using second generation Follies people like Zoe Richards and Sidney Stokes.’

All told, there are 70 people on Cole’s cast and crew list, and she says there is no threat of them being over-rehearsed, which she jokes is why ‘Wednesday night’s tickets are less expensive.’

Tickets are only available at Cabona’s in Truckee and as of this writing, Olivieri offered assurances that there are still tickets available in every price range for every night.

Ticket sales directly benefit TDMA. According to Donna Wood, marketing and promotion chair for TDMA, the 2008 Follies show raised $38,000. Of that money, $2,000 went to local high school scholarships and the remainder was devoted to marketing and promotion of the downtown with events such as Truckee Thursdays, the Christmas Boutique, and planting of trees, flowers, and ongoing maintenance of sidewalks, planters, street lights, furniture, and fixtures. Wood says the goal for this year is to ‘break even.’

Set aside some time April 21 to 24 to take in the show — which is still being held at the old Rec Center and will be open with a skit from the 2008 show’s closing promise to be in the new Rec Center. Nothing like a bit of Follies humor, right? As a final note, the show is raunchy, so leave the under 18 crowd at home.

Info: 2010 Truckee Follies, Wednesday April 21 to Saturday April 24, show begins at 7 p.m., 18+, tickets start $25, Community Center on Church Street, Truckee, truckeefollies.com

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