The Santaland Diaries, David Sedaris' bawdy and rebellious recollection of his days working as an elf in Macy's SantaLand, has become a Christmas season classic for people who are skeptical of Christmas season classics. This year Jonathan Christian, known for star turns in musicals likeLa Cage Aux Follesand Assassins, takes on the coveted role of Crumpet, Santa’s crankiest little helper.
For actors Crumpet is like a hilarious holiday Hamlet. It's a demanding soliloquy that can turn a little dark. Here's what Christian had to say about his trip to Santaland, flying solo, and his previous job robbing banks. Sort of.
Intermission Impossible: What’s it like flying solo? Without a net? Alone? All by yourself?
Jonathan Christian: Flying solo is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. The thought of losing one’s place or forgetting a passage had me panicked. I had to let the stress and fear of that moment go. This is such an intimate show and I really focus on connecting and engaging with the audience. I know they will be on the ride with me and if something goes wrong, we will all laugh about it and keep it moving. This is supposed to be fun-we aren't solving the world’s problems here....or are we?
Intermission Impossible: At some point most actors have had a job like Crumpet the Elf at Macy’s. Maybe you get hired to dress up like the Statue of Liberty or a taco to advertise for a business, or do singing telegrams. Have you ever had one of those jobs, and if so, did it yield any Sedaris-esque stories?
Jonathan Christian:Sort of. It didn't involve a costume...unless you count walking into a bank dressed as a bank robber. Several years ago, my best friend was the trainer for a bank. She was tasked with training all employees on new procedures surrounding robberies. She hired me to dress as a bank robber and had me burst into the classroom during the middle of each training session. I had to immediately scream for everyone to put their head down and then take fake cash from her at the front of the room. The idea was for her to ask questions after I left. Could they describe me? Every time I did it, I was a shaking, nervous mess. The moment to burst in was up to me so I would literally pace outside the training door with legs shaking, putting it off as long as possible. There was just something about making that explosive entrance to a quiet training class that terrified me. It was like pulling your own teeth or giving yourself an IV. How do you choose the moment? After a few times, I really got into it...maybe a little too into it. Everyone usually complied but I remember one woman who didn't. She kept her head up and had a smirk on her face. I literally got nose to nose with her and screamed "I said, put your head down...NOW!" She complied.
Intermission Impossible: Do you have a favorite part in Santaland? Some bit you really like performing?
Jonathan Christian: My favorite part is near the end. Don't get me wrong, it's super fun to spend an hour lampooning various characters and the craziness of the holiday , but the end is the true message. You really witness a change in Crumpet, a realization of what it's all about. It's a special moment that still gives me a lump in my throat every time I do it.
The Santaland Diaries are performed in Circuit Playhouse's cabaret space, so seating is limited.