Imagine emulating lauded humorist David Sedaris before an audience of his loyal, adoring, National Public Radio-loving fans.
All those eyes those hawk-like, hidden-behind-square-edged-hipster-eyeglasses eyes staring you down, critiquing your every move with a knowing skepticism ...
You wouldn't stand a chance. These people came to see an adaptation of a Sedaris play yes, David Sedaris, that Sedaris, their Sedaris, he of Grammy-nominated, New York Times best-selling, Time magazine Humorist of the Year fame.
Welcome to Kelly Walters' world. This week, when The Santaland Diaries opens as the latest University of Colorado at Colorado Springs' Theatreworks production, it is Walters who will play the humorist in the stage adaptation of the first memoir Sedaris shared on NPR.
As if being the "one man" in a one-man show weren't a daunting enough task.
At least Walters seems to have his wits about him.
"David Sedaris is brilliant," the local actor says. "You don't try to mimic him at all. I don't try to be him. I just try to be true to his sense of humor and irony."
Spoken like someone with experience. To his credit, Walters does have that when it comes to Sedaris and The Santaland Diaries. Two years ago, when Theatreworks last put on its production of the radio-to-stage adaptation, it was Walters who stood on stage.
"It's interesting, doing it again," he says. "It's been two years since I did it, so I didn't know how many of the words would come back to me. But on set, it all came back."
That's a good thing because, for Walters, there's plenty to remember. In this just-over-an-hour-long production, he's the only voice. Taking on the role of a young Sedaris working as an elf in "Santaland" at a Macy's department store, Walters must lead the audience through the gig's ups and downs, describing the scenes he's thrown into, all the while keeping the monologue engaging. There are some props surrounding him (Walters is quick to praise the play's set designers), but, for the most part, it's all him.
Well, him and Manitou Art Theater's Jim Jackson, who's a factor behind the scenes of this production. A local expert on one-man performances and physical comedy (given his clownish reputation), Jackson directed Walters for Theatreworks' production two years ago.
Now he's back, again helping Walters. Mostly, Jackson says, that means offering feedback. And, no, that's not any easier the second time around.
"It's a tricky one," Jackson says. "You rely a bit on what happened before, but you have to keep it fresh."
Through minor stage-direction changes, Jackson and Walters think they've been able to do just that, and improve upon their earlier effort. A week before their run was set to begin, they seemed confident The Santaland Diaries would be a hit among loyalist Sedaris audiences or not.
"It has all the makings of a Christmas classic," Jackson says. "It's just a little twisted, is all."
The Santaland Diaries
Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Cragwood Drive
Dec. 6-23, Wednesday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; matinees Saturday, 2 p.m., and Sunday, 4 p.m.
Tickets: $12-22, 13-plus; visit theatreworkscs.org.
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