Rolland Roebuck, manager and co-owner of Memories Ballroom in Port Washington, has family members strewn across the country, and this time of year tends to be the only time to bring them all together.
The former theater major from the University of Cincinnati used those experiences as the basis for his comedy "An Unexpected Gift." Originally written and performed in 1998, the show will return to the Memories Ballroom on Friday, Dec. 2, and will have eight performances over the next three weekends.
The show centers around the fictional Buerkle family, who are brought together for Christmas and must try to get along even as a blizzard knocks out the electricity in the house. Having been written almost 20 years ago, Roebuck has had to make some updates to the script to fit to the times.
"There wasn't as much access to cell phones and the Internet back then," he explained. "With so much technology today, there is more emphasis on the Buerkles unplugging themselves from everything and facing each other."
"An Unexpected Gift" is actually the first of four plays about the Buerkles by Roebuck, who wrote the three sequels in each of the following years after the original productions. According to Roebuck, it is "An Unexpected Gift" that has always received the most praise after all these years.
Roebuck sees this year's production as a potential last opportunity to share the comedic dysfunction of the Buerkles with Memories audiences before his retirement.
He originally came to Memories in 1990 after a decade of working at Kohler.
Disillusioned by his career and yearning to return to his theater roots, Roebuck saw Memories (then known as Port Danceland) as a chance to perform. In 2003, Roebuck and his business partners, Bob and Lynn Klemm, purchased Memories from previous owners Bobi and David Schultz. Since then, Memories Ballroom has served as an entertainment destination for dinner theater productions, weddings, and stand-up comedy.
"An Unexpected Gift" will be at the Memories Ballroom on Dec. 2-4 and 9-11, with a matinee and evening show available on Saturdays. A final matinee performance will also take place on Saturday, Dec. 17.
Dinner and group options are available. For more information, visit memoriesballroom.com or call the box office at 262-284-6850.