In a comical nod to Christmas, the Drafthouse Comedy Theater is staging best-selling humorist David Sedaris’ one-man show, The SantaLand Diaries, from Dec. 7-23, starring Cameron Folmar (STC’s School for Lies).
“It’s David Sedaris, so it’s very funny and very irreverent. Basically, the reason I relate to it so well is that it strips the veneer off of Christmas,” Folmar says. “It is a really fun show to do. It’s dark in places and has some surprising moments of realization.”
Directed by DC theater veteran Lynn Sharp Spears, the show offers a wry and witty look at the commercial excess that is the holiday season.
Folmar plays an unemployed writer in need of holiday cash – the story comes from Sedaris’ diaries which he first read on NPR in 1992. He trades his dignity for a pair of jingling shoes and takes a job as a puckish elf at Macy’s in Manhattan.
“It’s a behind the scenes look at Macy’s SantaLand, which is a perfect wonderland and a joy for all,” Folmar says. “He sees the ugliest moments—the managers and other elves and the way they treat each other, or how humiliating it is to walk around in the costumes—plus Santa may be not quite sober or really care about what he’s doing and the children and their parents are behaving horribly. It’s the ugly side of Christmas but through a really hilarious comic lens.”
When first offered the role, Folmar did his research on past productions and was surprised to find that many reviews had labeled The SantaLand Diaries as not having much character development.
at Drafthouse Comedy Theater
December 7 – 23, 2017
Details and tickets
“The reviews would say things like, ‘it’s an amusing sort of essay,’ and that leads me to wonder what those productions were like because ours definitely has a journey to it,” he says. “There are many surprising moments and lots of complexity, and I think it will be fun for an audience—they should definitely be prepared to laugh.”
This is Drafthouse Comedy Theater’s first entry into theater. The venue opened last April and has been primarily used for stand-up comics, serving concession snacks and a full bar. But ownership decided recently that it’s black box atmosphere would make the perfect setting to hold smaller theatrical productions.
“They are interested in branching out to a black box theater so they approached Lynn about the show, and hopefully it takes off and they will want to do it annually and make it a Christmas tradition,” Folmar says. “Lynn and I have known each other for about a decade now and she called me to see if I wanted to do it. She just heard my voice when she read the script, which is a huge complement to me personally because Sedaris is one of my favorite writers.”
In fact, Folmar has a collection of the satirist’s work, owning almost everything he’s written over the last 20 years.
“I’m definitely a fan and I feel like I can relate very closely to this story,” he says. “The strain that the holidays put on us to be perfect or have that perfect experience, even if you’re not going through SantaLand –even just visiting family, there’s always a lot of tension there to make sure everything goes right. It’s so damn funny.”
This marks Folmar’s first time doing a solo show and he admits that has been somewhat of a challenge getting used to.
“Usually, I am on stage with a partner or partners and talking to them and the audience is watching us talk. Sometimes you might do a soliloquy and move out into the middle, but rarely have I made eye-contact,” he says. “This is completely different. It’s in an intimate club—this little cabaret. I can see all of the audience as well as they can see me.”
Plus, it was adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello back in 1996, based on Sedaris’ comic monologue on NPR, and still has the formality of an essay.
“The challenge is to make it sound like talking causally and telling the story,” he says. “It’s just a lot of talking on my part and hopefully, people will laugh. Figuring out where to focus is new to me, working on how to engage people directly but not make them feel I am bearing down on them. It’s a strange type of relationship. It’s like standup, just telling story jokes.”
Regardless of how one feels about the holidays, Folmar expects that everyone will be able to relate to the story—either from memories of their own childhoods or from experiences with their own children.
“There are so many ‘aha’ moments in the play, things that are relatable. I’m looking forward to experiencing those things and seeing people recognize those moments,” he says. “At a time when people are feeling stressed out about the news and the world, it’s good to have something not political that has to do with the holidays and is fun, and in a twisty way gets people away from some of the ugliness going on. We’re going to let loose for an hour and offer something that we hope will carry over through the holiday season.”