For many, David Sedaris’ madcap “Santaland Diaries” is a holiday tradition for the new millennium. The essay-turned-stage production follows Sedaris’ season as an elf in Santaland at Macy’s department store. Seattle Public Theater, on the banks of Green Lake, has offered the hour-long, one-man monologue six times in the past eight years.
UW alum Patrick Lennon, ’09, donned the elf hat this year and is currently starring in the production, slated to wrap up on Dec. 24. The Seattle native has acted since middle school but didn’t major in theater, pursuing instead a B.A. from the Jackson School of International Studies. Offstage, Lennon serves as a program assistant for Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UW. Lennon recently talked to the UWAA about his time on campus and “Santaland Diaries.”
Note: This Q&A has been edited for content and clarity.
Why did you pursue a degree in International Studies?
I think it was winter quarter of my freshman year when I took SIS 201 (“The Making of the 21st Century”) with Mary Callahan, and I was completely hooked. As soon as I took it, I was like, ‘I’m done! I have found my major! We are set here.’
I was really happy with that decision. Dr. Callahan was so obviously passionate about the subject, so knowledgeable and engaging. It was like, ‘This is the subject I want to pursue and spend a lot of time digging deeper into.’
Why not theater?
I was very practical and wanted to have a degree that was in something different, not in case acting failed, but more so to be well-rounded. I wanted to have more of a balance in my life.
How did UW prepare you for life after school?
More than anything, it was the people. I met people from such a wide variety of backgrounds, with such a wide variety of perspectives on the world. It really helped me in theater, in playing tons of different roles, to be able to approach those in a more meaningful way. I learned how to appreciate and understand a variety of different perspectives.
With so many students, you’re always going to run into somebody new. You’re always going to be able to find people that you have common ground with, but then there are so many people you don’t have common ground with. I just think that’s so interesting.
Before signing on for the production, were you a fan of “Santaland Diaries?”
I love David Sedaris, just in general. He’s a hysterical writer. So, yeah, I was a big fan of the show. I think I saw most of the times they did it at SPT, and it’s funny.
The director and I, we have very similar positive feelings about Christmas, and we wanted to see that, through the haze of all of this crazy stuff that goes on, there is this heart. The crazy stuff is coming out of this positive place, and that was something that we really wanted to focus on in this show.
What was different about this production?
It doesn’t feel like a play. Normally, if I see people I know in the audience, I get really freaked out in my head because I’m trying to concentrate. But with this show, I actually really like it. We left the lights halfway up so I could see the audience, and it’s really nice to see people that I know and friendly faces. It feels more like almost like we’re hanging out at a bar, and I have this crazy story to tell you: ‘I was just in New York, and all this crazy stuff happened to me.’
With this show, because it’s just me, it’s like the audience is the only people I have to talk to, so it feels like every night, I get to hang out with my friends and tell them this awesome story.