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Holiday Humiliation at Arsht with David Sedaris' The SantaLand Diaries

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While on hiatus from smoking crystal meth, creating absurd performance art, and speaking bad French in Paris, a young David Sedaris took a brief stint as a department store elf at a Macy's in New York City. He wrote an essay about it, The SantaLand Diaries, which he read on NPR in 1992, marking the writer and humorist's first big break. 


The rant, which follows our humiliated protagonist from the job interview, to elf training, to his adoption of his new elfin persona, "Crumpet," to the first toddler vomiting episode, drunken Santas, and beyond, was adapted into a one-man, one-act play by Tony Award-winning Broadway vet Joe Mantello. Zoetic Stage's Artistic Director Stuart Meltzer's version of the not-suitable-for-children holiday show will open at the Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater December 8. 


The part of Sedaris is acted by South Florida's Carbonell Award-winning Michael McKeever, marking the second time the artist has had the joy (and anxiety) of performing the role. (He starred in the show in 2009 at a playhouse in Jupiter.) 

"Just think about what that job would entail to begin with, and then add in a few surprises from David Sedaris, and it's incredible," said McKeever of the show. "The first time I read it I was on the floor." 

McKeever said The SantaLand Diaries essay was the first piece he'd ever heard from Sedaris, and that he'd been a fan ever since. 

"The thing that's brilliant about David Sedaris is that he's got this amazing ability to take the insanities of everyday life that are always right there in front of us, and to really make them into something special. He can take the seemingly mundane and make it funny, witty, and delightful, and this is a prime example of that," McKeever said. 

As far as the responsibility of carrying an entire one-man show, the seasoned actor expressed a lot of happiness, but a few mixed feelings as well. "I'm excited, I'm thrilled, I'm loving the language and working on it, and at the same time I'm terrified. At one point, I'm there alone, in my underwear, about to get into my tights. So talk about vulnerable. It's like, yeah!" he said.

In an hour and fifteen minutes, the audience will grasp the desperation of the unemployed, the sickening insanity of Christmas shopping, and just how weird holiday "cheer" can get. 

The SantaLand Diaries runs December 8 to 23 at the Adrienne Arsht Center's Carnival Studio Theater. Tickets cost $35. Go to arshtcenter.org or call 305-949-6722. 

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