"It's 2:30 in the morning, and there's a drunk guy who just threw up in the bathroom, and we're eating greasy, filthy numbers at Chubby's, and I'm thinking, Merry Christmas!" exclaims Stephanie Agin.Agin, the visual manager at Anthropologie (531 Nichols Road on the Plaza), is sitting with her team in the shop's basement, recounting a dinner break during the twelve hours they spent creating Anthropologie's intricate Christmas displays. "Vignettes," Agin corrects. "We call them vignettes."
And that's fair -- these are more than displays, more than just attractive arrangements of the girly apparel and housewares for sale inside. They're little themed rooms, each with a name and a fantasy it's designed to invoke. Poke around the "It's a Wonderful Life" vignette, and you'll find carefully created treasures among the wares -- a plate of cookies, a letter to Santa. Shoppers can't buy them; they're there to add a sense of discovery. "Whimsy," Agin corrects.
It was a commitment to that sense of whimsy that led Agin and her team to pledge themselves to the twelve-hour decorate-a-thon. "We wanted it to have that spirit, like customers went to bed and woke up and all of a sudden it was Christmas at Anthropologie," And it worked. Shoppers are often so at home among the vignettes that they help themselves to Santa's cookies.
Agin recalls with horror seeing a woman open a vintage birdcage, grab a handful of candy canes and leave. Nevermind the shoplifting, the canes were more than three years old. "My Christmas wish," she says, "is that everyone's belly will be full and therefore our displays will not be eaten." If world hunger persists, however, "We do have some two-year-old snowballs."-- Kelly Sue Deconnick
Five Year Surprise
Be wary of the brother-in-law who just got out of jail. This is the wisdom to be gleaned from the film Five Years. In the independent thriller, a housewife's picture-perfect marriage is interrupted when her husband's younger brother enters their home after serving time for murder. Building suspense with deliberate pacing, Five Years studies the secrets and lies that go into building a tragically unsuccessful relationship. Starting at 6:15 p.m. at the Westport Coffee House (4010 Pennsylvania), producer David Zellerford and Kansas City filmmaker Robert Hubbard, the movie's script supervisor, host a dialogue followed by a screening at the nearby Tivoli Cinemas (4050 Pennsylvania). Admission is $6 for the general public. For details, call 913-649-0244.-- Michael Vennard
The Final Step
Kansas City's best two-steppers have been dancing their hearts out, getting ready to compete for $10,000 in a contest captured by documentary filmmakers Rodney Thompson and Stinson McClendon. This isn't any old two-step they've been doing; it's the Kansas City two-step -- a sensuous and sophisticated, old-school blend of ballroom and jitterbug, swing and smooth. It's so incredibly cool that it could happen only in KC. The finals begin at 8 p.m. next Thursday at the Park Place Hotel, off Interstate 435 at the Front Street exit. Tickets cost $20 in advance; see manual74.com for details. Go, or else you'll have to wait to see it in a movie.-- Gina Kaufmann
Katie Sheehan's black-and-white photographs from Yosemite National Park, now on display at the Beth Allison Gallery (2016 Baltimore, inside the Sherry Leedy Gallery), include a part of the natural world rarely seen in nature photography: an animal known as the human being. There are some traditional photographs on view -- a striking, Ansel Adamsesque shot of tall trees framed by vertical streams of light, for example -- but in several of Sheehan's images, people make fleeting appearances. Through Sheehan's lens, they're not the focus; they're just features of the physical landscape, appropriately dwarfed by mountaintops. The exhibit, On Valley Time, is on display through December 27. For information, call 816-474-5637.-- Kaufmann