Tis The Season To Be Naughty: Horizon Theatre Unwraps Another Saucy Season of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES

Posted on: Dec 1st, 2015 By:
Santaland Diaries_Horizon Theatre5 - Crumpet Bear Rug

Crumpet (Harold M. Leaver) in Horizon Theatre’s production of THE SANTALAND DIARIES. Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

SANTALAND DIARIES by David Sedaris; adapted by Joe Mantello. Starring Harold M. Leaver, Lala Cochran, Enoch King. Horizon Theatre, Nov. 20-Dec. 31, Tickets here.

By Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

It goes without saying that Atlanta has no shortage of Christmas traditions, from ice skating at Centennial Park to taking a trip down to Callaway Gardens to see the lights. But for those looking for a little more “naughty” than “nice” in their festivities, look no further than Horizon Theatre’s annual production of David Sedaris’ THE SANTALAND DIARIES. Adapted from Sedaris’ hilarious essay detailing his brief stint as one of Santa’s many elves in Macy’s Santaland, The Santaland Diaries serves to be a perfect mix of Christmas cheer and the biting wit that Sedaris has since become famous for. 

While Sedaris is known for many of his full-length essay collections, such as ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY and DRESS YOUR FAMILY IN COURDORY AND DENIM, his 1992 essay on his adventures in Santaland is what put him on the map in the first place. Sedaris, at the time a contributor for NPR, read the piece on the radio program THIS AMERICAN LIFE, and the absurd hilarity of Sedaris’ prose along with is dry, unique intonation brought the piece widespread popularity. A dramatized version for the stage was soon produced, and Atlanta’s own Horizon Theatre jumped at the chance to bring a new Christmas experience to the city. The theatre has since put on The Santaland Diaries every holiday season for the past 17 years, and shows no signs of stopping soon. 

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Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

One of the many reasons why The Santaland Diaries has maintained such popularity is Harold M. Leaver’s impeccable performance as Crumpet, Sedaris’ elfin alter ego. Leaver has been playing Crumpet throughout the entire run of the show so far, and it’s clear that he has enjoyed every second of it. His performance is an impeccable rendition of Sedaris’ own diction with Leaver’s own personal touch and style, which proves to be highly entertaining to witness. At one point, Crumpet selects a hapless audience member to join him in his antics, and even the shyest of volunteers is eventually won over by his wit and charisma. Leaver snarks and frolics in a manner which Sedaris would surely be proud. 

Along for the ride are Crumpet’s two “sidekicks,” played by Atlanta theatre vets Lala Cochran and Enoch King, who show no hesitation in being completely ridiculous and outrageous. Because the two play every character other than Crumpet himself, they are constantly running backstage for quick changes that are seemingly impossible given the time constraints, but Cochran and King pull it off without flaw. It’s a treat to watch the duo play whiny children one second and vulgar adults the next, and when alongside Leaver’s sassy yet sweet Crumpet, the laughs are near constant. 

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Courtesy of Horizon Theatre Company.

The ambiance of the theatre itself is not to be overlooked, as the whole place is decked out in cozy Christmas cheer that invites you to relax and enjoy the eggnog-fueled frivolity that is The Santaland Diaries. The stage is a mini Winter Wonderland, and the intimate nature of the performance space lends itself to frequent audience interaction and participation (be prepared to shout and cheer along with your new elf friends). With reasonable tickets prices and a great location, there’s really no reason you shouldn’t make your way over to the Horizon this Christmas and treat yourself and a guest to a night with Crumpet and friends. You’ll never look at Lenox Square’s Santa the same way again, I can guarantee you that.

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‘Tis the Season To Be Merry: Hark the Honkytonk Devils Sing! Whiskey Gentry Throws a Merry Y’All Tide Celebration at Variety Playhouse.

Posted on: Nov 28th, 2011 By:

When a band named The Whiskey Gentry throws a Merry Y’All Tide Celebration for the holidays, you might be expecting the same old twangy country renditions of favorite carols. But this spirited band loves to defy expectations, and their seasonal shindig at the Variety Playhouse this Friday Dec. 2  is no exception to that raucous rule. It’s not that The Whiskey Gentry aren’t influenced by the kind of ballads that came down from the hills of Appalachia, but like a certain rebellious red-nosed reindeer, they’re bound and determined to be musical misfits with a diverse list of influences that spans from Patsy Cline to Bela Fleck to Social Distortion. Yeah, that Social Distortion. The accent is on the Whiskey in this Gentry who speed things up with some fiery, high-energy licks that suggest punk and old-time rock ‘n’ roll and even a touch of vaudeville in their stage shows.

The Whiskey Gentry’s 3rd annual Merry Y’All Tide also features The Packway Handle BandShovels and Rope and My Three Keanes, an act made up of veteran producer John Keane, who has produced CDs for R.E.M., the Indigo Girls and The Whiskey Gentry’s 2011 CD, PLEASE MAKE WELCOME, and his two daughters. All proceeds from the $15 in-advance/$17.50–at-the-door benefit the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and fans are encouraged to bring at least three cans for donation. As an extra incentive, the band will be giving our a specially designed poster to everyone who participates.

While The Whiskey Gentry prefer not to nail down their sound into any one genre, ATLRetro managed to corral lead singer Lauren Staley and guitarist Jason Morrow—a couple both musically and in real life—into a sneak preview of Merry Y’All Tide. While sitting an spell, they also opened up more than a bit about the band’s origins, why they love the holidays and their favorite whiskey. And when you’re done reading, check out this this nifty little video they made about this Friday’s show.

ATLRetro: How did Whiskey Gentry get started?
Lauren: Jason and I met around Christmas 2007, and we were both in separate bands at the time. Once we started dating, we decided to join forces and begin writing tunes together. We both came from different musical backgrounds, but we immediately found a niche together with this style of music.

For those who haven’t heard the band before, how do you describe your sound, how did it come about and how does it relate to what’s come before musically?
Jason: Describing our sound is probably the hardest thing we have to do in this band. We’re not country. We’re not bluegrass. We’re not punk or rock or old-timey. Yet we ARE all of these things at the same time. I think we take the formula of an old country tune, turn it up to 11, give it some punch, add pretty vocals, and top it off with a few of the best pickers in the southeast. This came about from all of our shared love for country and bluegrass, but we wanted to really dig in and add the fire behind it.

The Whiskey Gentry. Photo courtesy of The Whiskey Gentry.

Many contemporary bands couldn’t rush further away from the sentimentality of Christmas, but you’ve become known for an annual live holiday show, which is even bigger this year. What’s the origin story behind the Merry Y’All Tide Celebration?
Jason: We love everything about the holiday season – anything from cinnamon broomsticks to watching our nephews and nieces open gifts. It’s a festive time of year, and we’re a festive type of band. We love this season whether it’s “cool” or not.
Lauren: I think people love to get in the holiday spirit in general. People go bananas over it. Did you see the Black Friday riots? I mean, come on.

At Merry Y’All Tide, will you be playing your own takes on traditional carols or original songs? Is it all Christmas music or will you be playing non-holiday fare, too?
Lauren: Back in the day, any artist who was somebody cut a Christmas record. Those tunes are classics, and we like to do our own takes on those as well as newer Christmas tunes. The majority of our set will be non-holiday fare, but we’ve got some awesome holiday songs picked out to cover. But we can’t tell you which ones they are – it’s a surprise. 🙂

What other shenangans are planned? Is Santa gonna be there, tapping his feet, clapping his hands and swigging a PBR?
Jason: We hired the crappyist Santa we could fine, and he’s going to be there chugging whiskey and PBR and trying to get pretty girls to sit on his lap.

Much merriment was had at last year's Merry Y'All. Photo Courtesy of The Whiskey Gentry.

Why We Three Keanes, Packway Handle Band and Shovels and Rope?
Jason: Shovels and Rope because they are our new favorite band, also a husband and wife duo. Packway Handle Band because Josh and the boys are some of our good friends and were part of our Christmas show last year. We Three Keanes because John Keane helped us make the best record of our career thus far, and he and his twin daughters will be doing a 20-minute, all-holiday song set promoting their Christmas record. He will also be sitting in on pedal steel with us.

Why did you want to partner with the Atlanta Community Food Bank and the Georgia Conservancy?
Lauren: We think the holidays are about giving, and we wanted to do our part to help out.

Why does your CD, PLEASE MAKE WELCOME, make the perfect Christmas present, and will there ever be a MERRY Y’ALL TIDE CD?
Lauren: Because it fits easily into a stocking and is also super easy to wrap—if you suck at wrapping like I do. And who knows—maybe we will have a Merry Y’all Tide CD for next year’s show!

What’s next for the Whiskey Gentry? You’re about to embark on a Southeast tour, right?
Jason: We are basically on tour every weekend, Thursday to Sunday. We already have 36 dates booked in 2012, so yes, we will be busy.

Finally, got to ask, what’s the band’s favorite whiskey, why and how do you drink it­- straight up or with ice?
Lauren: Ironically, I hate whiskey, so I’m a terrible person to answer this question.
Jason: If I had to speak for everyone, probably Jameson. In shots!

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Retro Review: Vengeance is PUMPKINHEAD’s or Be Careful What You Wish For

Posted on: Nov 6th, 2011 By:

By Tom Drake
Contributing Blogger

Splatter Cinema Presents PUMPKINHEAD (1988); Dir: Stan Winston; Screenplay by Ed Justin, Mark Patrick Carducci et al; Starring: Lance Henriksen, Jeff East, John D’Aquino, Kimberly Ross; Tues. Nov. 8; 9:30 PM; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

Short: “There is a Heavy Price.”

Medium: PUMPKINHEAD is about a father (Lance Henriksen) wronged, and the price paid by everyone around him for his vengeance. A dirt biking crew of college kids goes up into the mountains for some good publicity shots and in the process kills an innocent child accidentally. The grieving father (Ed) goes to an old woman who summons a powerful vengeance demon to kill them all. As the demon begins to kill those involved, Ed can feel it and tries to change his mind. The old woman laughs and tells him that once the process has begun, it can’t be stopped. Pumpkinhead begins to slaughter the folks one by one, and none of the locals will help them because they’re “marked.” That is until a teenager takes pity on them and tries to hide the last ones alive in a church. This doesn’t work out too well, but it does buy them some time until Ed finds them and tries to help them kill the demon. They finally find a link between Ed and Pumpkinhead, so one manages to live. Barely.

Maximum Verbosity: I think fictional universes are dreary places…primarily because a lot of the fiction that we enjoy as fairly common place doesn’t seem to exist in them. The laws of sympathetic magic are fairly clear, and the link between Ed and the demon is rather fascinatingly well done. But it takes several fairly obvious instances for anyone involved to figure out the link. Though to be fair, in the horror genre, figuring anything out at all when faced with blindingly terrifying otherworldly horror is an amazing feat. Being quick about your wits like Ash (EVIL DEAD) or Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a feat unto itself. And usually that level of moxie cannot happen until it has been earned by several harrowing experiences.

Lance Henriksen plays a grieving father who conjures a vengeance demon in PUMPKINHEAD (1988) Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

For a low budget horror movie of the late ‘80s, PUMPKINHEAD has very good production values. It also has a very complicated script. No one (well, almost no one, except Joel [John D’Aquino] who is just generically a dick) is really black or white. I personally found Ed’s axis to be the most fascinating. The movie could have worked JUST fine without Ed changing at all or having him die at the resurrection of Pumpkinhead. But it didn’t work like that. Ed felt and saw the pain that he had caused and, as a result, began to try to save those whose doom he had sealed. In the end, only this choice allows the innocents in the group, most of whom were actually trying to help his son, live.

PUMPKINHEAD is an excellent metaphor for the futility of vengeance and the axiom that no good deed goes unpunished. Aside from Joel (who is just generally a dick), no one wishes ill will or malice. And the rough hill justice is far from perfect. After all, what is done to the locals who all sit quietly by and ignore the demon hunting the innocent victims around it? And yet, it is a fascinating reflection of their locality. Without the presence of the local law, Pumpkinhead is a fiercely independent figure of vengeance which no one, knowing the price, would invoke lightly. Interfering with his administration of hellish vengeance carried an even heavier price, and Bunt (Brian Bremer), the teenage local, knew the laws of his land and chose to disobey them anyway. His mercy was not rewarded.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the use of a flamethrower. Also of particular note is Pumpkinhead himself, who has no lines, but obviously has quite a personality. I’d say he steals the show, but since the name of the movie is PUMPKINHEAD, he really just sort of keeps it. He not only kills, but he kills with skilled taunting cruelty that very few other horror villains really match. It is irony with cruel casual gore but it doesn’t drown us in it and doesn’t celebrate it. It just is, which is what Pumpkinhead should be. A force of nature.

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Hey, Dirty South Derby Girls, You Rock!

Posted on: Aug 4th, 2011 By:

ATLRetro sends a BIG CONGRATS to Atlanta Rollergirls‘s all-star team, the Dirty South Derby Girls (DSDG), who have earned a spot in the 2011 WFTDA South Central Region Playoffs in Kansas City, MO, Sept. 30-Oct. 2! They’ll compete for 1 of 3 spots in the 2011 WFTDA Championships! Good luck, gals! We know you’ll do Atlanta proud!!!!

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Sleep Tight, Pussycat

Posted on: Feb 5th, 2011 By:

Tura Satana in FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL! (1965)

A sad farewell to the legendary Tura Satana. No details yet, but her nine lives expired yesterday at age 76. Macabre Marilyn’s Some Like It Haute blog reports a press release will be forthcoming. Read a brief tribute at DreadCentral.  We echo Tura’s Official Website that “you have no idea how much you will be missed…”

Great interview from “THE WILD WORLD OF TED V. MIKELS” (2008) here.

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Vintage Styles Reborn Anew

Posted on: Feb 4th, 2011 By:

In upcoming weeks, ATLRetro will Shop Around on Fridays, giving you tips on the best vintage & reproduction shopping. For now, though, read a great New York Times article from Wed. Feb. 2 on my favorite growing fashion trend of new clothes with a vintage look here.

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This Week in Retro Atlanta Jan. 24-30, 2011

Posted on: Jan 24th, 2011 By:

By the clicking of these keys, something Retro this way comes… The first installment of “This Week in Retro Atlanta” won’t be as complete as I hope to make it. But everything has to start somewhere—or in this case, some time. So the time has come simply to just get the first installment of ATLRetro’s top picks of things to do this week posted.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Welcome to ATLRetro!

Posted on: Oct 18th, 2010 By:
Coming January 2011. Welcome to ATLRetro, Atlanta’s only comprehensive guide to 20th century pop culture activities in the 21st century, with an emphasis from the Roaring Twenties to the Outrageous Eighties and everything in between. Bear with me as I get the kinks all worked out, but soon you’ll be able to click here to find out what’s happening every week in burlesque, big band and swing dance, jazz, rockabilly, punk rock, disco, roller derby, vintage clothes and collectibles, cocktails, dining, classic movies including cult and exploitation films, classic TV, classic cars and more.

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