Geoffrey Kent only plays a bitter Christmas elf on stage. In reality, he’s a fulltime actor and fight choreographer, he’s the president of the Society of American Fight Directors and he’s a member of the Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Also, he’s tall. And he’s funny; though, not as funny as Crumpet, the acerbic elf stuck in Macy’s during the idiocy of the holiday season in David Sedaris’ Santaland Diaries. Kent is less bitter than Crumpet, too. He’s only a little jaded by the holiday season: “My family gets together, but we don’t do presents anymore. Except for my nephew. He gets presents.”
In Geoffrey’s Words:
On acting: “I got into theater in junior high so I wouldn’t have to take the bus home. I continued theater in high school because of the girls.”
On bad jobs: “I once had a job cross-proofing VIN numbers.”
On audiences: “You’ll find people who don’t want to interrupt you with laughter. My mom never laughs when she comes to see me—because she thinks it will mess me up. A friend of mine, an actor, said that you let the audience laugh as long as they need on the first joke. If you interrupt them, and continue over the laughter, they might be afraid they’ll miss something and won’t feel comfortable laughing. But if you get five good laughers, they loosen things up for everyone. The trigger laughers can break
Favorite Christmas gift: A suitcase full of Legos he received as a boy. “I just bequeathed it to my nephew. He was so happy he cried.”
On the characters in Santaland: “You want to be honest, but they are still a character. If you go to the mall, and you see some lady freak out on her kids, it’s really not that far off (from what’s in the play). So, it comes down to not making them a cartoon. I really enjoy the characters. Like Snowball (an elf Crumpet mimics in the play). I looove Snowball. She has like two lines and I make them longer with sounds and faces. Oh, and the elf who hits on all the women. The Walrus. He’s great. You just have to look forward to that.”
Still, this winter will be Kent’s third time playing the rough-around-the-edges elf, and it’s the second time Boulder County audiences get to witness Kent looking like he went on a bender in the North Pole. Boulder Ensemble Theater Company opens Santaland Diaries on Dec. 1, and, luckily for us, Kent will once again be the one man in this one-man show.
For a theater company, finding a hit holiday play can mean really big crowds, crowds that come back each season and bring family and friends, and with Santaland Diaries, they offer something a bit different: Not only a retreat from the shopping, turkey-cooking, gift-wrapping, egg-nog-making grind of December, but a theatrical offering that is not The Nutcracker, White Christmas or A Christmas Carol.
As an actor, Kent feels the same way: At least he’s not playing Scrooge. He gets to partake in “The antidote to the holiday spirit.” It’s fun and wickedly funny and, for audiences, allows them to escape from the real world for just a bit.
“It particularly attacks corruption of Christmas, the materialism. Also, it comments a lot on parents,” he says. “But in the end, it introduces you to a Santa who represents what Christmas can be about. He (Crumpet) finds something he can’t make fun of. That’s pretty cool.”
Santaland, which Sedaris introduced to the world on NPR in 1992 and was adapted for the stage by Joe Mantello, has become increasingly popular with theater companies over the years. While it’s not your traditional feel-good holiday hymn, it’s entertaining, memorable and sassy. The show centers around one man’s journey into Macy’s Santaland one holiday season. He tells a tale of screaming children, horrific parents, screwy Santas and nutty co-elves. It’s also a celebration of crappy jobs in general, and because everyone who is anyone has had a crappy job, the audience can enjoy Crumpet’s snarky, sassy point of view, even when he’s at his angriest.
“I’m sure people go into it thinking it’s going to be a jolly romp. …It’s not light and fluffy. Crumpet is aggressive in his condemnation of the holidays,” Kent says.
For Kent, because of the humor of the writing, the lack of stage direction in the script and the intimacy of being in the small theater (88 seats), the show is all about collaboration and creativity.
“Part of what I love is it’s a conversation with the audience. And that’s not always possible in theater,” he says.