If Nye Cooper seems as if he fully embodies Crumpet the Elf in The SantaLand Diaries, he should. The current run of the one-man show at Contemporary Theatre of Dallas is the eighth production Cooper has starred in. In the show, David Sedaris recounts his experiences working as at Macy’s during the holiday shopping season.
Cooper’s no longer a starving actor – he works full-time for Dallas personal injury attorney Brian Loncar, whose wife is the Dallas Contemporary Producing Artistic Director Sue Loncar. But he talks about some past experiences working odd jobs between acting gigs and what it’ s like to play the part year after year in this week’s Art&Seek Q&A:
Art&Seek: This is your eighth time performing the show. Does the performance change from year to year?
Nye Cooper: It changes from performance to performance, depending on the audience. You’ve always got to feel your audience out. A matinee crowd is going to be different than, say, a Saturday night crowd that has been drinking a little. Of course, the big change was moving the venue from WaterTower to Contemporary. We got a new director, Coy Covington. The guy’s a comic genius in my book.
Art&Seek: Since you are so familiar with the material by now, does it take less time for you to prepare it?
N.C.: That is one thing I can say about this piece: it kinda does stick in my mind … after a while. You can ask me about it in July, and I could sit down and do the whole thing for you.
A&S: Before you started doing this show, did you get excited for the holidays when they would come around?
N.C.: Oh, I still am. I love Christmas. I’m an actor – this has nothing to do with the real me. But people do get a little insane, and that’s why I enjoy this show – it kinda pokes fun at that, and people going a little crazy this time of year. Above all, it really is a nice time, provided people want to keep it that way.
A&S: So performing in this show that takes a cynical look at the way others approach Christmas hasn’t changed your outlook?
N.C.: Not at all. The thing about the cynicism of the show is, people think it’s directed towards Christmas. It isn’t. It’s directed towards how people handle themselves this time of year.
A&S: So what’s it like being the only person on stage for an hour?
N.C.: Frightening. It still is. There are good things and bad things. You don’t have to count on someone else for your cue or your line. And at the same time, if you miss a line or a cue, it’s your fault. You’ve got no one else to blame.
A&S: Your delivery sounds a little like David Sedaris. Is that intentional?
N.C.: I’ve heard that a lot from people. It’s not intentional. I just think with the material, it’s kinda geared that way. He wrote it. So if it sounds in his tone, maybe I’m hitting it on the right notes I hope.
A&S: In the show, Sedaris talks about moving to New York with dreams of being an actor, but he’s forced to take this holiday job at Macy’s. Do you have any stories of odd jobs you’ve taken between acting gigs?
N.C.: Oh yeah, in the early days. Now, thank god I’ve got a steady day job that pays the bills, which I appreciate. … I tried retail. I lasted for one day. That didn’t really work out for me. And it was during the Christmas season, too – that’s pretty funny. The place I was working was a major retailer. And they kinda told you going into it, “Everyone’s a thief. And they’re not not a thief until they walk out of the store without stealing something.” And this was a pretty reputable retailer, too. To this day, I won’t shop there, because I don’t want to be treated like a thief!
A&S: Yeah, the irony there, having worked retail, too, is that the people they need to also watch out for are the ones working in the store.
N.C.: Yeah, meanwhile, I walked out with two belts. It was an accident, because they wanted us to wear the clothes. After a shift’s over, I wasn’t going to go down my outfit and say, “OK, what’s from the store?” I figured I’d just leave and bring it back tomorrow.
The Art&Seek Q&A is a weekly discussion with a person involved in the arts in North Texas. Check back next Thursday for another installment.