Cameron Folmar is an incredibly experienced actor with an extensive resume that includes being an Affliated Artist with The Shakespeare Theatre Company, but he’s still experiencing firsts in his career. The SantaLand Diaries is his first one-man show and he’s popping that proverbial cherry as Drafthouse Comedy Theater in D.C. also kicks off their first theatrical production in the space. SantaLand isn’t a huge departure for either the theater’s tone or Folmar’s interests as a performer. It’s a show that needs an intimate space and has a whole lot of humor. Based on a story David Sedaris told on NPR about his stint as a Macy’s elf one Christmas season, The SantaLand Diaries is a hilarious, fast-paced one hour take on how far one man will go to pay the bills. Cameron Folmar shares his experience working on this show, what makes the material so special for him as an actor, and what he loves about performing in this particular space.
Were you a David Sedaris fan before this show?
I’m a huge David Sedaris fan. [When approached about performing in The SantaLand Diaries] I was like this can’t be happening. This is too good to be true. I was like, “Oh hell yes, I have to do that.” He’s one of those writers you feel like you know, if you really dig his work. That off-color humor. Almost like “I shouldn’t be laughing at this” humor. It really tickles me. This piece isn’t all on the same level of hilarity. There’s some wickedness to it. There’s some black humor in it. This character isn’t particularly nice. He’s not delighted with his his situation in life at this moment. He’s the anti-elf. It’s about Macy’s commercial attempt to make a perfect Wonderland and how it just turns into a House of Horrors.
What is it like doing a one-man show?
I’ve never done a one-man show before. It’s 30 pages of me talking. I thought I may kill myself but it’s something I’ve never tried before and I really wanted to challenge myself this way. As an artist, you just have to risk things like that. This is really story time.
Was there anything that scared you about performing solo?
This is very different for me. One of the things that frightens me about it was the staging. My instinct is to mostly stand there and talk. There’s not a whole lot to do. It has something akin to stand up. It is storytelling jokes. [The stage] is a thrust: I’ve got [audience] on all three sides of me. I’m trying to give some to the left, the center, the right. I’m moving back and forth and that’s it. The story takes care of itself. I just have to tell it clearly and keep track of it.
What makes this story special to tell as an actor?
It’s a really interesting reality [Sedaris] sets up. At one point I’m experiencing the day to day life of a Macy’s elf, but it’s also a diary. A lot of paragraphs start with the word “today.” “Today we did this…” etc. Those are entries in his diary. Those are the SantaLand Diaries. Those are him in bed, scribbling down what happened. In the stage adaptation, he’s really going through those things. It’s a unique reality and it works! People really respond. You have to tell the story and play off what [the audience] gives back to you. That’s the sport of it. That’s the fun.
What has it been like rehearsing and now performing theatre in the Drafthouse Comedy space?
In this particular environment, we’re touching knees here. I love the space. I love the intimacy. It means that subtle things can be subtle and wild things can be wild. There’s no gulf between you and the audience like their would be in a proscenium [theatre]. It’s really warm and you feel the energy and you get an immediate return on what you put out there. It’s a great space. They want to do more comedy theatre. They want to bring the theatre crowd out. SantaLand Diaries is kind of the adult thing to go to [over the holidays] and one of the best parts about the Drafthouse is that you can have a cocktail and watch! I’m delighted to be a part of it and I can’t believe my luck!