You can check out the first part of series on writing my new play here.
I’ve known from pretty early on that there was going to be a mall Santa in this play. It seemed like such a perfect way to quickly get to what the story is about. But I didn’t want to just write what I thought being a mall Santa would be like, so I did some research.
But those articles, as good as they were, didn’t offer quite enough information. So, I found a documentary called “I am Santa Claus“, which features WWE wrestler, Mick Foley, who wants to learn to be a Santa. In addition to Mick, there are a bunch of other Santa’s that are profiled. Some of them are just delightful, and a couple are kind of unpleasant, but it definintely gives a sense of what the Santa gig requires.
So, given that this play involves Yule monsters like Krampus, Perchta, GrÃ½la, and Belsnickel. So what does a mall Santa have to do with that? Consider that all of the Yule monsters (with the exception of maybeÂ GrÃ½la and the Yule cat) have been enslaved by Saint Nicholas and made lesser. So here’s a mall Santa, embodying the person of Saint Nicholas, and what if heÂ accidentally sets them free of their servitude? What then? What would he do? And what could make him go so far? What would make him do something so terrible?
I had an idea. And the idea was really just that: the barest hint of an idea. But it was enough to start something, to start the wheels spinning in my head. I’ve talked about this before, about writing the poem that inspired me to dig deeper and research more. And I’ve talked about the process, and filling a notebook and then seeing what I’ve got. Now I’d like to talk about putting it together. Because I’d filled a notebook, and I transcribed what I had and learned about the themes I was looking at. I’d done some research and learned more about the Yule monsters and the companions of Saint Nicholas. I learned about more than just Krampus, but of Perchta with her knife and her thread, about Pere Froutard and Belsnickel, and about the Yule Lads, Gryla and the Yule Cat. And more.
So how to put all that into a play? Could that become a play? These were ideas, and they certainly interested me, but were they enough to make a play with? I wasn’t sure. I still needed a starting place. And I found itÂ in what became my thesis, and this idea formed the backbone of everything else I wrote. The idea, went like this:
Christmas is a lie. The whole peace and joy, goodwill to men thing; Christmas Joy, Santa Claus, elves; these are things added to sanitize the season, a salve to soothe the fear, to cover the danger. But it is still there. You can hear it in the howl of the wind, the crunch of the snow, the bay of the wolf. And you can feel it in your heart. You know its there. We all do. Deep down, we feel it. That’s why we cling so desperately to the idea of Christmas joy, Santa, elves, and goodwill to men. Because without those, we’d have to give in to fear. Because the truth is, the season itself…it wants to eat us alive.
Â Is that going to be how the play starts? I don’t know yet. I know its an important part, but whether I actually need to have those words in the script is still up in the air.
What else have I learned about the play from transcribing what I put in that notebook? Well, for one thing, I know there’s a mall Santa.
I had an idea for a new play, a new solo piece (because apparently, I caught “the bug” with The Commandment), and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t spend the next eight years writing it, like I did with the last solo piece, and so I knew that I needed to light a fire under my ass. Because I know that I need that. If I don’t have it, it will be a thing I want to write, but that I don’t reallyÂ have to write, which means that I won’t.
But I’m getting off topic. I had an idea. First I wrote a poem about a Christmas monster, and then I started to think about all the other Christmas monsters, the ones who were once gods and the ones who were always just monstrous, and what they mean to the holiday we cut and pasted over Yule and Saturnalia. And so, I started to read about them and their origins. I started with this book, and then found more. And so I started to write. I spent some of the time over my Christmas break writing. And then I booked a space. I called up Rosemary at the Red Sandcastle Theatre, and rented the space for the end of November 2018.
And that lit a fire, let me tell you. Every time I look at a calendar, that adds some fuel to the fire. Because it sounds like a long way off, but it comes up quicker than I’d like.
So I’m writing, with a deadline, to make a thing to perform in November. And I don’t know what its going to be yet. And that’s exhilarating and frightening.