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SARDONIC HOLIDAY TRADITION: David Sedaris’ ‘Santaland Diaries’ takes over the Red Barn stage

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Talk less, listen more. It’s sage advice Crumpet will mandate from audiences come December 1 when Panache Theatrical Productions launches the famed David Sedaris essay-turned-theatre-show “Santaland Diaries” (adapted by Joe Montello). As Red Barn Studio Theatre turns into Macy’s Santaland, it welcomes everyone to the disgruntled world of Crumpet—more specifically, to listen to his hour or so diatribe on the holiday season as an elf who works at Macy’s. He is barraged daily by snotty-nosed kids awaiting to sit on Santa’s lap, and he thrives on snubbing the season of over-commercialization and faux holly jollies.

1The show has become a standard tradition on the Wilmington theatre scene since Justin Smith and Chiaki Ito began including it in their lineup of holiday productions for City Stage. Once they evolved into Cape Fear Theatre Arts, they dropped the run to focus only on their big New Year’s Eve show annually (this year it’s “Sister Act”). Since, no other theatre company in town swooped in to claim it—at least not until last year when Panache relaunched the production, starring Anthony David Lawson as Crumpet. For 2016 Holli Saperstein and Lawson—who founded Panache—asked comedian Jamey Stone to take over the reindeer reins with Donna N. Blitzen directing and Rudolpho Nariz Rojo overseeing musical direction. Stone couldn’t be a better fit to capture Sedaris’ spot-on sardonic wit.

“The dark humor and cynical attitude of the piece appeals to my own sense of humor greatly,” Stone tells encore. “This is my first time in this role. While I’ve had the opportunity to act in local plays, this portrayal has more in common with the stand-up comedy I’ve been doing for 13 years. I’ve had 13 years to develop that ‘voice’ and persona I use on the comedy club stage; the challenge here is I’ve needed to find this ‘voice’  in a matter of months.”

encore interviewed Stone about the show and stepping into the elf shoes of Crumpet for the first time. Here’s how it unfolded:

ELF CULTURE: Jamey Stone takes on Sedaris’ famed Crumpet, the elf from Macy’s Santaland who has a lot to say about Christmas. Photo courtesy of Panache Theatrical Productions

ELF CULTURE: Jamey Stone takes on Sedaris’ famed Crumpet, the elf from Macy’s Santaland who has a lot to say about Christmas. Photo courtesy of Panache Theatrical Productions

encore (e): What makes ‘Santaland Diaries’ so good as an alternative holiday tradition?

Jamey Stone (JS): It’s a hilarious, adult alternative to your typical Christmas production. With the insanity of holiday shopping, decorating, waiting in line to see Santa, and trying to explain to a 5-year-old what Santa does the rest of the year and why reindeer fly, it’s nice to hire a sitter and enjoy a world where somebody talks about Christmas in a manner you might have been thinking but were afraid to say out loud!

e:  What about Sedaris’ writing do you find most appealing and connective to modern-day audiences?

JS: He is a master of observational humor, and uses that skill to “show us the funny” in the everyday. Modern-day audiences have become more cynical, and this work shows that Sedaris has always been ahead of his time.

e: What will you bring to Crumpet that hasn’t been covered yet in your opinion?

JS: Crumpet’s cynicism shows him to be something of an outsider to the happy holiday spirit of Christmas. Being raised Jewish, I was always “on the outside looking in” when it came to Christmas and therefore, may have a different take on being forced into the world of Santa, elves, reindeer, etc. than those who grew up entrenched in the Christmas tradition.

e: What are you learning through this character that perhaps you’ve not realized about yourself?

JS: I’m actually a lot nicer than I thought I was.

e: Tell me what we will see and hear. Are others joining you onstage?

JS: This production is set in the Macy’s employee break room. Crumpet will be joined by four fellow Santaland elves who bring not only their own personalities to the show, but some terrific music as well

The Not-Ready-For-Christmas Carolers will be providing musical breaks between vignettes. The group consists of local actors/musicians Jen Rodan, Will Rodan, Devin DiMattia, and Marlon Ramos.

Santaland Diaries
Dec. 1-4, 8-11, 15-18; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.
Red Barn Studio Theatre
1122 S. 3rd St.
Tickets: $10-$15 • 910-251-1788

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