Although he may be pretty big in the world of contemporary literature, one of vertically challenged author David Sedaris’ most memorable day jobs was working as a Christmas elf in a Macy’s department store one holiday season.
Not to let the lessons he had learned from the experience go unused, Mr. Sedaris wrote an essay about it and read it on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition in 1992. He wrote a longer version of the essay in 1996 and that version was adapted into a one act play by writer Joe Mantello. The show premiered at The Atlantic Theater Company in New York.
Mr. Sedaris’s humorous tale opens with his being unemployed at thirty two in New York City and applying for elf work. He tried to look on the bright side by telling himself that at least he would have a special place to go to every day that was filled with other elves as opposed to people who dressed up as food and handed out flyers on the street all alone.
Although the application process entailed a drug test, two interviews, a background check and personality test, he confesses “they only really cared if you were short.” He explains that even though there were marijuana stems floating in his urine, he got the job.
He tells of a rigorous training process which involved reading something called “The Elfin Guide” and listening to a frighteningly intense motivational speaker. He also learned that they have a designated day for radically deformed children. On this day the elves were to run ahead of the child to Santa and tell him what horrific deformity the next child in line would have so Santa wouldn’t be shocked.
He describes the hierarchy of elf life and the politics of being one of Santa’s Little Helpers. As Crumpet the Elf he endures much ridicule from the general public and much corporate regimentation from his employer. He speaks of witnessing a good deal of drama at the store, including a marriage proposal, a flirtatious tease of an elf and a Santa who seems to believe he is actually Chris Cringle.
Although Mr. Sedaris originally claimed the story was autobiographical. An episode of This American Life that focused on the play suggests that some of it may have been fictionalized.
From now until December 28,, 2014 Portland Center Stage presents The Santaland Diaries staring Darius Pierce as Crumpet (Sedaris).
The misanthropic tale is recommended for adults as it contains mature themes and certain private details of the life of Mr. Clause himself.
Critiques of the play has been generally positive with the Willamette Weekly saying that the play “wrings genuine sentiment from the sappiest time of the year.”
Mr. Pierce is a graduate of Brown University and has been featured on such shows as Leverage and Portlandia. He received a Drammy for his performance as Shakespeare in The Beard of Avon.
David Sedaris is an author and comedian who first rose to prominence with The Santaland Diaries. He went on to publish several anthologies including Holiday on Ice, which is a collection of Christmas essays, Naked, which contains essays about his upbringing and his wild college years and Me Talk Pretty One Day, which is about his experiences living in Normandy and his inability to speak the French language.
His anthology Dress your Family in Corduroy and Denim made it to number one on Amazon’s bestseller list. The book contains stories of Mr. Sedaris’ upbringing in an amusing family, which included his sister comedic actress Amy Sedaris.
The Santaland Diaries runs Tuesdays through Sundays at Portland Center Stage Ellyn Bye Studio. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. with a 2:00 p.m. matinee on Sundays, ticket prices range from $30.00 to $45.00.
Eliza Gale – PortlandMetroLive Contributor
Eliza Gale began her blogging career interviewing aspiring actors and industry professionals on a Los Angeles based website called Curvewire. She started www.elizagalesintervviews in 2012 and has interviewed over three hundred people about their jobs and businesses since then. She has contributed many interviews to 360drinks.com, which is a Portland based happy-hour website. She also writes for Examiner.com and AXS.com.