PORT TOWNSEND — She’s been a female incarnation of Scrooge for weeks. And Vickie Daignault, a nationally-known actor recently alighted at the Key City Playhouse, is about to transform.
“The Year of Magical Thinking,” inspired by Joan Didion’s book of the same name, will become Daignault’s one-woman show at the playhouse twice on New Year’s Eve: at 2:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Tickets are available now for $20, while those who buy First Night passes — at a suggested $5 to $10 donation — receive free admission to the evening performance.
Information about First Night awaits at jchs museum.org; for details about “Magical” and about “Spirit of the Yule” and “Every Christmas Story Ever Told,” Key City’s other December shows, see Key CityPublicTheatre.org, call 360-385-5278 or stop by the playhouse at 419 Washington St.
“The Year of Magical Thinking” is a new thing for Port Townsend.
Daignault, who plays the lead in “Spirit of the Yule,” Key City’s localized version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” through Dec. 30, has plenty of passion left over.
She first performed “Magical” at Stageworks Theatre in Tampa, Fla., a year ago in November, winning Theatre Tampa Bay’s Best Actress Award.
A Facebook post following the prize piqued her friend and collaborator Linda Dowdell’s interest; Dowdell, who lives in Sequim and is musical director of many Key City shows, invited Daignault out West.
After she landed her role in “Spirit,” Daignault and Key City artistic director Denise Winter began talking New Year’s Eve.
Key City Public Theatre is part of Port Townsend’s First Night celebration — and “Magical,” it turned out, was something fresh the venue could stir into its offerings.
“The Year of Magical Thinking” opens on Dec. 30, 2003. It is Didion’s memoir of the year following the death of her husband, writer John Gregory Dunne; the theatrical version bridges this with “Blue Nights,” Didion’s book about their late daughter Quintana.
“The show is definitely about [Didion’s] life and loss, but the story she is telling is much bigger,” Daignault said.
“The character is listed as ‘cast,’ not Joan, hinting at the Everyman or Everywoman nature of the piece … I believe that she uses the whole story in service of disimbuing us of our own magical thinking,” whether it’s about loss, or about religion or politics or hope for the future.
According to various dictionaries, magical thinking is believing our actions and desires can make something happen in the real world — while “[Didion] doesn’t define our magical thinking for us,” Daignault said, “she stirs these deep waters.”
Dowdell, “Spirit of the Yule’s” music director and onstage bandleader, has been watching Daignault and the rest of the cast in that show for about three weeks now.
“Vickie digs deep into character,” she said; “as an actress, she engages her scene partners, daring them to play with her. Of course she won’t have scene partners in ‘Magical Thinking.’ I’m eager to see how this translates in a one-woman performance.”
In the snug 66-seat Key City Playhouse, Daignault has audience members as her fellow travelers. And New Year’s Eve, she said, is an opportune time for “Magical,” and for reflection and making space for deep thoughts.
“Didion is a master storyteller … [listeners] will pick up on her self-deprecating humor about her lack of control in any situation,” the performer added.
“She says about her writing in general that she imitated Hemingway’s structure, withholding information and manipulating the rhythm. Lines like ‘I began. I filled many bags with T-shirts, sweatpants, socks, Brooks Brothers shorts,’ or ‘She always woke when the tide turned and the sea went silent’ are particularly wonderful to say.”
Didion’s message, Daignault said, is right on the surface, except when it’s not.
“It is a pleasure and a privilege to speak her words again.”