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Actor becomes staple in Sedaris' 'Santaland Diaries'


Published:   |   Updated: December 12, 2013 at 06:35 AM

Christmas is not so merry for a Macy's department store elf who sees the holiday through jaded and cynical eyes in the “Santa­Land Diaries” opening Sunday at American Stage Theatre Company.

Actor Brian Shea returns to the role for the fourth time in what is becoming a holiday tradition for the St. Petersburg-based theater group.

“Every time I do it, I discover new moments and new ways to approach it,” says Shea, who has been acting in Tampa-St. Petersburg area productions for more than 20 years.

“I also have been working in the retail business for more than 20 years, so I can relate to this story,” he says. “It's always been a favorite because the writing is so intelligent and funny.”

Created by author David Sedaris, “SantaLand Diaries” is a one-man show about a 33-year-old man who has taken a lowly job as Crumpet, one of Santa's elves at Macy's in New York City.

He has artistic aspirations but is hired basically because he is short. In order to become an elf he has to fill out 10 pages of forms, take a multiple-choice personality test, undergo two interviews and submit urine for a drug test.

The job is less than glamorous and involves cleaning up child vomit, working with an odd lot of idiosyncratic Santas, dealing with screaming kids and facing stressed-out sales clerks.

Shea, who works at a Barnes & Noble bookstore, says it's amazing how insane shoppers can become during the holiday season.

Sedaris, a favorite of National Public Radio listeners, wrote the piece as an essay in the early 1990s. In 1996 it was adapted for the stage and has since become widely performed throughout the United States during the holidays.

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