Entertainment

Surrender to the holiday spirit with ‘The Santaland Diaries’

Seth Tucker stars in Fuse Productions’ “Santaland.”
Seth Tucker stars in Fuse Productions’ “Santaland.” Photo provided

For this holiday season, Fuse Productions will bring David Sedaris’ “The Santaland Diaries” to State College for the first time.

Performing this one-man show is New York City actor Seth Tucker, who plays Crumpet the elf, aka Sedaris himself. Sedaris who penned the autobiographical essay in the early 1990s about his time as an elf.

In the essay and play, Sedaris is 33 years old and has moved to New York City to become a famous writer for “One Life to Live.” Instead, he ends up desperately looking for a job and settling on a position as an elf in Macy’s Santaland during the Christmas season.

At first the job is simply humiliating, but once the thousands of visitors start pouring through Santa’s workshop, he becomes battle weary and bitter. Taking consolation in the fact that some of the other elves were television extras on “One Life to Live,” he grins and bears it, occasionally taking out his frustrations on the children and parents alike.

“He is snarky, quick, bitter, and speaks his mind, so we have a lot in common,” Tucker said. “This character is me — in many aspects or right on the nose — and I think a show like this is almost cathartic. This is his story of that hilarious time.”

Born and raised in Tempe, Ariz., Tucker has been performing professionally since graduating from high school. Most recently, Tucker has been working on projects in New York City, including the off-Broadway revival of “Pageant: The Musical,” on which he can also be heard on the cast recording.

For this part, Tucker was referred by a friend of his who suggested him to Fuse Productions’ Artistic Director Richard Biever.

“Once we were in contact I read through the script, fell in love, then taped myself performing about 15 minutes of the show,” he said. “A few weeks later I got the role.”

“The Santaland Diaries” is basically a recount of David’s time working what he thinks is an awful job. Though most of the show spends time making fun of Santaland, Macy’s and the crazy interactions that occurred, there is also a shift in perspective — from a sarcastic, annoyed tone to an understanding of what is at the heart of Christmas.

“It’s a special time of year when magic sort of does exist,” Tucker said. “It’s a refreshingly honest look at the Christmas spirit and how it brings out the worst in people but also the best. Even the most opposed person can be moved by the magic of the holidays.”

The show ends with yet another Santa being ushered into the workshop, but this one is different from the lecherous or drunken ones with whom he has had to work. This Santa actually seems to care about and love the children who come to see him, startling Crumpet into an uncharacteristic moment of goodwill just before his employment runs out.

Tucker imagines that most anyone would enjoy “The Santaland Diaries,” as it has a little bit of everything for everyone.

“A little dark, a little silly, a little moving and it says a lot about the Christmas season that everyone notices but no one talks about,” he said. “It’s edgy, incredibly smart, and downright hilarious. It’s the Christmas show you didn’t know you needed to see.”

As a New Yorker, Tucker admits that it’s easy to be annoyed by the tourists, the lines and the commercialism that Christmas brings. But this show reminds him what to look past and what to savor during this exciting season.

“These are the type of anecedotes that will stay with you and pop into your head every Christmas to come — you will never look at a department store Santa the same, or look at shopping mothers or smiling elves without thinking about what they may be capable of,” he said. “But the show ends on a moving note — a heartfelt surrender to the holiday spirit — something we can all relate to. It brings out the worst and the best in people and if you can look past all the craziness, there really is something beautiful about this time of year.”

IF YOU GO

  • What: “The Santaland Diaries”
  • When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16-19 and 2 p.m. Dec. 19
  • Where: Penn State Downtown Theatre Center, 146 S. Allen St., State College
  • Info: www.fuseproductions .org
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