Graduates’ original plays featured as part of holiday production


Source: David Rosenberg

Mia McCullough (Communication ’92) will premiere a one-act comedy in the upcoming show “HoliDaze.” The show features six one-acts that delve into holiday themes like gift-giving and family.

Jennifer Hepp, Reporter


The original one-act comedies of two Northwestern alumnae will premiere this weekend as part of Step Up Productions’ third annual “HoliDaze,” a show that features six plays dealing with holiday themes like family and gift-giving.

Mia McCullough (Communication ‘92) is one of the featured playwrights. Her play, “Temperance vs. Tolerance,” depicts a newly sober woman whose family members deny her request for them to abstain from alcohol at Thanksgiving dinner.

“It’s a story about how families can be very liberal and very tolerant of things like religion, interracial marriage and gender identity changes, but somehow alcoholism is still a problem,” McCullough said. “It’s a hurdle that many families don’t know how to navigate.”

M. T. Cozzola’s (Communication ‘92) play “Christmas Eve Eve” is about a highly disproportionate gift-giving exchange between two coworkers at a company.

“(The company) was looking for stuff about the holidays and family dynamics,” Cozzola said. “For me, office families can sometimes be more prevalent in our lives than even our biological families.”

Cozzola said the style of comedy she uses can sometimes make people uncomfortable. The character at the heart of her piece is the most offensively comic, but also embodies what she considers to be the pure spirit of Christmas, she said.

“We can get all stressed out about commercial things, but really what’s wonderful is when you see that pure, unadulterated joy that comes from people who really love to give,” Cozzola said.

McCullough said she is looking forward to seeing her play in front of a live audience.

“In the rehearsal room it’s very hard to tell where the humor lands,” McCullough said. “It’ll be interesting to see how my humor reads in front of an audience.”

Molly Lyons, a Chicago-based actress, plays the role of the mother in the family in McCullough’s show. She said acceptance is one of the valuable messages in McCullough’s play.

“The holidays are always stressful because people have an expectation for them to be perfect,” Lyons said. “What I like about this play is watching people trying to work through to connect and communicate, even if they fail.”

Both McCullough and Cozzola are working with Step Up Productions for the first time. Step Up Productions is a non-profit theater company in Chicago.

“I’m delighted,” Cozzola said. “It’s always a wonderful gift for any playwright to have the chance to get their play’s first time on the board with such a talented director and cast. It’s just a great gift for me.”

Step Up Productions will donate a portion of the proceeds from HoliDaze to Chicago’s Lakeview Pantry. Proceeds will also go to a local business that provides counseling for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder, a type of depression related to changes in the seasons, in the Chicago area.

“I like the fact that there’s some purpose behind what they’re doing,” Lyons said. “There are causes involved. It’s more than just putting on a play.”

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