David Sedaris is a damned national treasure. I'm not saying all of his work is perfect (hell, I'm not sure he has ever topped 2000's "Me Talk Pretty One Day"), but when Sedaris goes after a subject he is impassioned about, he can find some of the most incisive observational humor of any satirist working today. His essay "Santaland Diaries" was turned into the one-man, one-act show by Joe Mantello in 1996, with Timothy Olyphant ("Deadwood," "Justified") originating the role.
Since then, the show has become a staple for smaller theater companies across the country to trot out around Christmas since the play is not only exceedingly wry and well written, it is also a way for theaters to have their cake and eat it too. If a theater programs Santaland Diaries and then something like A Christmas Carol or It's A Wonderful Life, it is a way for that theater to reach all the demographics by hitting those cynical about holidays and those that still have a little nog in their eggs.
It is a smart way of doing things in the theater community and Bend has had multiple productions of Santaland Diaries over the years with Thor Erickson originating the role many years ago and Clinton Clark taking over in 2012.
This year will bring his third year inhabiting the role of a disgruntled Macy's Christmas elf to Bend, but do not expect this to be the exact same show from the last few years. "You haven't seen THIS show before," says Clark. "And I'm working to keep the dialogue fresh and the show new because it's that good. It's a timeless piece. I'm honored to be a part of it."
Clark initially started doing theater in high school until getting cast in Jesus Christ Superstar 10 years ago at 2nd Street Theater. He did a few more plays at Southern Oregon University and then followed that up with a brief internship at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. When he came back to Bend he was approached by 2nd Street to do the show. "I got introduced to this play out of nowhere," says Clark. "I think they were trying to get Thor to do it again and he wasn't available so I was like second choice or something and it just fell into my lap. First year was pretty successful. Second year was nearly sold out entirely so I just kept doing it. This is round three."
Santaland Diaries is a snarky, mildly dark crowd-pleaser that can set the tone for Christmas perfectly for those who find no perfection in it. Clark knows that sometimes the holiday season can get a little rough for folks and has the solution with this show. "Mainly I want people to laugh. To laugh at themselves, to laugh at the holiday and often the ridiculousness that comes with it. There's gotta be a flip side to everything and this is, well, it," he tells me.
It is not easy for everyone to find the laughs or the heart during the holidays. Sometimes all there is are frozen TV dinners and reruns of NCIS. Santaland Diaries knows this and wants to make the flickering lights a little brighter and the Christmas trees a little fuller. The show just wants to make the holidays a little less lonely, one crowd at a time.Read a review of Santaland Diaries at Volcanic Theatre Pub here.