December 7, 2002.By Graydon Royce, Star Tribune.
They say art flows from personal turmoil, and a tortured soul. In Tod Petersen’s case, creativity sprang from what he calls “my pathetic, uncomfortable social weirdo act.”
Introverted to a fault, Petersen for many would hike up his courage and become the life of the party by telling stories and imitating his mother. AHHHH, the laughter washed over him like sweet balm and fed his need for attention. It was as good as being on stage, which was where he made his career as an actor in musical theater and revues.
Finally, Petersen pulled his party act on director Peter Rothstein one weekend. Rothstein at the time was noodling a show called “Oh $#@#, I’m Turning Into My Mother” and Petersen’s mincing impressions and recollections seemed perfect grist.
“It wasn’t going to be Tod-focused,” said Rothstein of his show concept, “but Tod’s stuff ended up being fun and rich in a way we didn’t expect. That’s how all that came about.”
The show’s sequel has become Petersen’s signature show, a holiday favorite. As in the original, Petersen and his mother – or at least his imitations of his mother – are at the heart of “A Christmas Carole Petersen,” which opens tonight for it’s third annual run at Loring Playhouse in Minneapolis.
In collaboration with Rothstein, Petersen tells a story of his mother’s need to believe in Christmas magic, family traditions and Santa Calus. When Tod chides her insistence on pretending, she challenges him – “Isn’t that what you do in theater? Make believe?”
“I’m probably not quite as kooky as he makes me out to be,” said Carole Petersen form her home in Mankato. “But he’s fairly fair.”
Besides, she said, “He’s doing it in love.”
Yes, he is, and that’s one reason this show has exceded the dreams of Petersen and Rothstein. It also taps into the original “Christmas Carol” theme of alienation and redemption, as Petersen tells of the years he stayed away form his family at holidays, disaffected and lonely – “Hiding in my cave.”