First Act: Santaland Diaries


-- Starting Friday night, City Stage will transform into a North Pole wonderland, not with an elaborate set but with the vivid storytelling of one funny man.

"I have 30 pages of dialogue that I'm supposed to have memorized by Friday night. I hope I will," says Jon Stafford.

In the one man show "Santaland Diaries," actor Jon Stafford takes to the stage alone, with only short appearances by the chorus girls to keep him company. He tells the story of a man down on his luck who decides to become, of all things, an elf at Macy's Santaland. Contrary to popular belief, the job isn't all snowflakes and candy canes.

"He's kind of cynical, a little bitter about having to be an elf, but as all Christmas stories end up, he ends up having a sentimental part to it in the end," says director Gil Johnson.

Jon for the most part is on the stage telling his story alone. It's a daunting challenge for even the most veteran actor. So what happens if he forgets a line? Jon says he has a plan.

"I will have a little script sitting over at the side where I'll walk over and fake it and look at it and keep going. That's fun. When it happens, your heart races a little bit and then you come up with something and you go."

Despite the fact he has to entertain an audience for an hour by himself, Jon says his nervousness won't get the better of him.

"Once I open my mouth and start talking it usually goes away, hopefully."

Hopefully so, or it might make for an interesting entry in those diaries.

If you'd like to see "Santaland Diaries," it opens November 24 at City Stage in downtown Wilmington. It runs Friday through Sunday nights through December 10. All shows are at 8:00 p.m. For more information call 342-0272.

Reported by Heather Setzler