Decking the Halls with Deidre Hall at Holiday Benefit Fundraiser

Deidre Hall with the "Rudolph" cast. Photo courtesy of Rick Aguilar Studios
On December 7, the soap world and the theater world collided in Chicago when Days of our Lives star Deidre Hall (Marlena) was a special guest at a fundraiser for the Hell in a Handbag Productions theater company.

We arrived early and after walking up five (!) flights of steps, we waited for the doors to open and talked in the hallway, a conversation that led to – what else – talk of Days. Several Deidre fans had been waiting there for a while already. One woman I spoke to had traveled from Indianapolis. Another flew in from the East Coast.

Most of the Days fans chatted about when they started and the obvious couples: Marlena and John, Marlena and Roman, Bo and Hope, Jack and Jennifer. A few were quite verbal in their displeasure of how Sami and EJ ended. (My mention of Don Craig, Marlena's husband back in the day when my mom was a Days fan, was met with blank stares.)

I didn't get a chance to talk to Deidre, but in an interview, one of the local papers said she'd come to one of the Handbag shows over the summer with a friend and enjoyed it. They asked her to appear at the benefit and she said yes, provided that she could also raise money for The Wounded Warriors Project.

Handbag's genre is one that many soap fans might appreciate: it specializes in camp and parody. There is no Hollywood sacred cow that Handbag isn't willing to take on; its previous show was a parody of the Hitchcock classic The Birds.

Founder and artistic director David Cerda has a special affinity for channeling Joan Crawford (he's the leader of a rock/punk band called The Joans) and several shows have taken advantage of his drag likeness to Crawford, including the show I saw last holiday season, "Christmas Dearest," which was equal parts A Christmas Carol and Mommie Dearest. (Yes, it was every bit as crazy and funny as that description suggests.)

So the Days fans and Handbag fans were treated to a performance of "Rudolph The Red Hosed Reindeer," a long-running Handbag classic which recasts Rudolph as a transvestite, Santa Claus as a lecherous pig, and Mrs. Claus as a self proclaimed drunken hag.

The show itself is funny, topical and scandalously inappropriate. (I won't spoil the plot, but you see FAR more of Santa than you ever thought you would!)

Deidre appeared in guest spots in both acts. The first act had her competing in "Dancing with the North Pole Stars," against Mrs. Claus. That battle ended with a catfight that Deidre lost. Mrs. Claus drunkenly dismissed her with the line of the night: "See you on The Secret Storm!"

In the second act, Deidre and Santa (played by Handbag repertory member Michael Jack Hampton) were in a sports bar, breaking the fourth wall and chatting about where the play would go next. Deidre got to recite a laundry list of Marlena's life – possession, divorce, falling from a cliff. When Santa asked what should happen next, she responded, "Hey, I don't write this shit! You're on your own!" and left the stage to appreciative applause and cheers from the audience.

"Deidre was so incredibly gracious and wonderful," Hampton told me after the performance. "I asked her if I could touch her [onstage] and she said, 'the more you grope me, the more they'll love it!'"

The auction of this dress raised $1000 for The Wounded
Warrior Project. Photo by Patrick Erwin
After the show, the benefit fundraisers and auctions kicked into high gear, including a chance to bid on a Marlena Evans doll.

Two auctions for the Wounded Warrior Project, led by Deidrem netted $2,500, including a whopping $1,500 bid for a Days package (including many signed photos and books) and another $1,000 for the dress she wore on-screen the night Alex North was killed.

It was a fun play and a fun evening – Deidre clearly had a blast and was happy to be there. And it was interesting to see the two groups – the Days fans and the Handbag fans – in the same space. As artistic director Cerda said, "Hopefully the Days fans and the Handbag fans can peacefully coexist!"

After the benefit, it struck me that in many ways, the two camps are very similar. Theater companies like Handbag are similar to web soaps, working to raise funds to engage creative people that can bring fans the genres and the entertainment that they love. Mainstream theater isn't providing this content, and we know the space for serialized daytime drama is shrinking, so it was great to have a chance to support both of them, artistically and financially.

For information about Hell in a Handbag Productions, or to make a donation, please go to

For information about The Wounded Warrior Project, or to make a donation, please go to

1 comment:

  1. Great report, Patrick. I would have loved to attend this.