Michael Boudewyns stars in Gorham Arts Alliance’s production of “Santaland Diaries” this Saturday and Sunday. Courtesy photo

WESTBROOK — The Gorham Arts Alliance premieres “Santaland Diaries” this weekend to benefit a special needs theater program the alliance is developing.

The play, “for mature elves only,” is based on David Sedaris’ iconic essay of the same name, based on the time he spent working as a Christmas elf at Macy’s in New York City in the early 1990s. The anecdotes in the essay range from crass and rude to odd and funny.

While some equate the essay and related performances to a “Bad Santa” type of show, the star of the Gorham production says he sees it more as similar to the hit TV show “The Office.” Michael Boudewyns of Gorham describes “Santaland Diaries” as a story detailing the “everyday working-ness of people in a hamster-in-a-wheel job” set in a cheery, Christmas background.

“When you see other theaters do it, and you see their PR and videos, oftentimes they advertise it with martini glasses, liquor, in a bar, it’s a ‘Bad Santa’ thing. But when you read it, it’s not really ‘Bad Santa.’ (The elf’s) not doing bad things on the job, he’s just reporting on the weird things he sees,” said Boudewyns, a professional actor and co-founder of Really Inventive Stuff, a theater company that presents vaudeville-inspired shows for families in the United States and internationally. He also teaches through the University of Southern Maine’s theater program.

“Santaland Diaries” is a one-man show, but Boudewyn’s elf character will be joined on stage by pianist Reyers Bruscoe. For the most part, the elf is just a fly on the wall, relating his observations of flirtatious elves, drunk Santas and comedic exchanges with customers, clashing classic Christmas imagery with rampant consumerism at one of America’s most popular places for children to visit  Santa.

“It’s fun to spend time with (Sedaris’) work because it has a kind of really humorous and funny energy of someone who is just observing something ridiculous. Not all of it is true, but a lot of it is,” Boudewyns said.

While the Saturday and Sunday performances are meant for adult audiences, proceeds from them will benefit the Gorham Arts Alliance special needs program.

“We are working on a special needs theater program for all abilities,” said the alliance’s Amy Valentine. “We want our program to benefit people with reading limitations, physical limitations, it’s for anyone with a challenge in theater.”

The Gorham Arts Alliance was founded in 2011 in order to provide more arts and culture opportunities for the communities around Gorham. While Portland has many notable programs and theaters, Valentine felt there was a gap in arts and culture for children and adults outside of the city.

“It’s very grassroots. In the early stages, we were borrowing any room that we could. The Gorham Recreation Department took us under their umbrella and we ran programs through them until 2013, when we went out on our own,” Valentine said.

The Gorham Arts Alliance is now at 34 School St. and offers a number programs for adults and children.

“It won’t be just a Gorham thing, its something for all communities to be a part of,” Valentine said. “Our summer programs reflect that. Half our population comes from Standish, Buxton, Hollis, Cornish, Naples and Sebago. It really grabs those kiddos that don’t have the access to what’s in Portland.”

 

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