Andrew Zahrt again goes elf in ‘The SantaLand Diaries’

MUSKEGON — Ten years ago (pictured), local actor Andrew Zahrt last played a department store Christmas elf in humorist David Sedaris’ one-act adult comedy “The SantaLand Diaries.”
Here he goes again.

At 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, Zahrt will reprise his solo performance, this time in the 200-seat auditorium of the Muskegon Museum of Art (MMA), 298 W. Webster.

But even though it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, don’t bring the kids. Because of the show’s adult content, the MMA is cautioning that “The SantaLand Diaries” is “for mature elves only.”

Zahrt concurs. “It’s definitely a mature-audiences show,” he said. “Despite some mild language and subject matter, it kinda spoils the mystery of Santa, and who wants to ruin that for their kids?”

“The SantaLand Diaries” is part of the 13th annual Festival of Trees, which runs at MMA from Nov. 21 through Dec. 2.

Advance tickets for “The SantaLand Diaries” are $12 for adults and $10 for MMA members; to order, call (231) 720-2580. If available, tickets will be $15 at the door.
“The SantaLand Diaries” is Sedaris’ semi-autobiographical account about his days as a struggling actor. During that time, one of his survival gigs in New York City was taking a holiday stint at Macy’s department store, in what one critic has called, “ … the coldest circle of retail hell: Macy’s Santaland.”

The actor becomes Crumpet, but retains his disdain for the holidays … at least for a while. Said Zahrt, “Sedaris’ sardonic wit and charm are not what you typically picture when you think of ‘Happy Holidays.’”

Still, even The Grinch couldn’t resist the Christmas spirit forever.

Therein lies the tale, one that Sedaris related in an essay he wrote and read the essay on National Public Radio in 1992. In 1996, actor/director Joe Mantello adapted Sedaris’ essay for the stage, as a one-man, one-act play. It debuted at the Atlantic Theater Company, starring Timothy Olyphant.

Pretty much wherever “The SantaLand Diaries” plays, it’s greeted as the holiday jest it is intended to be. One critic called it, “… a delightfully irreverent holiday classic for those of us who prefer our eggnog spiked.”

Zahrt first took on the guise of Crumpet in December 2007, at Muskegon Community College. He revived “The SantaLand Diaries” a year later, as a fundraiser for Howmet Playhouse in Whitehall.

For all you hockey buffs, here comes the hat trick.

Zahrt has returned for a third time at the behest of Cathy Mott, MMA’s assistant director. The museum includes a small auditorium, one in which audiences are up close and personal. Zahrt thinks that fits “The SantaLand Diaries.”

“The MMA Auditorium is going to be a fun space to perform this show,” he said. “It’s an intimate setting, only a few hundred seats, and the stage is just one step up from ground floor, so it will feel like I’m right in their laps.”


Categories: Theatre

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