We’re all familiar with those marvels of modern marketing known as fake holidays. American Express cleverly created Small Business Saturday (Thanksgiving weekend), but who can complain about that? After motherhood and (gluten-free) apple pie, what’s says Americana more than the free-enterprise opportunity of running a small business. 
At the other end of the spectrum is a concoction like National Pancake Day. Not that such silliness is worth flipping out over, but how syrupy can you get? 

The Mother of Mother’s Day
Cynics will swear that Mother’s Day was fabricated by a greeting card company, but not so. The annual May day of gratitude to our earthly creators was birthed more than a century ago by one Anna Jarvis to honor the sacrifices mothers make for children. Alas, she later regretted the holiday’s commercialization and renounced her own ceremonial “child.”
What about the upcoming Valentine’s Day? That surely sounds like a fake holiday manufactured by marketers. Yet, that’s heartly the case. Not that we should believe everything we read online these days, but I have a soft spot in my Baby Boomer heart for the Encyclopedia Brittanica, which tells us that V-Day “has origins in the Roman festival of Lupercalia… which celebrated the coming of spring. 

Thank You, Pope Gelasius I
“At the end of the 5th century,” continues the encyclopedia, “Pope Gelasius I replaced Lupercalia with St. Valentine’s Day.” It became synonymous with romance (and adorable, amorous arrows piercing the heart) starting in the 14th Century. 
Chocolates and roses and whiskers on kittens are some of the favorite things associated with Valentine’s Day (though one of those might be from a Broadway musical), but why not try something new and fun and different and… even a teeny-weeny twisted!

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Celebrate with a Twist
That would be Twisted Valentines, a collection of one-acts presented by Axial Theatre in Pleasantville over the next two weekends. This annual theater festival, now in its sixth year, is a mix of comedies and dramas that probe the depths of joy, despair, and everything above, below and in-between that love and lust are prone to evoke,” in the words of Briarcliff Manor playwright Evelyn Mertens. One of her pieces, titled More, is in the show, along with seven other one-acts. 
In addition to Ms. Mertens, there are many other actors, writers and directors of local origin who populate Twisted Valentines. They hail from Yorktown, Somers, Katonah, Montrose, Peekskill, Putnam Valley, Carmel, Patterson, as well as parts of New York City and Connecticut.

The Food of Love
This year, Axial Theatre tried something new with Twisted Valentines. It created the fixed setting of a restaurant and asked playwrights to create an original work with that in mind. The result is eight unique, never-seen playlets that are connected by a physical throughline, with some characters reappearing in different scenes.

Twisted Valentines runs Fridays through Sundays, Feb. 7 – 16, 2020, on the campus of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 8 Sunnyside Ave., Pleasantville, New York 10570.

There is a special Thursday performance Feb. 13 and a Valentine’s Day dance open to all after the Feb. 15 performance.
Tickets are $25.00 general admission, $20.00 seniors and students, and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets (https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4492393). For more information: (914) 286-7680; www.axialtheatre.org.

Bruce Apar is a writer, actor, consultant, and community volunteer. He sits on the board of Axial Theatre. He can be reached at bruce@aparpr.co; 914.275.6887.