Between the lines

One of the perks of writing for Maui Scene is getting the chance to chat with people you admire. Last month I actually wrote, “Call David Sedaris,” on my to-do list, followed by a 32-digit French phone number. OK, so it wasn’t 32 digits, but I think there was a “Q” in it.

Before success came his way, Sedaris held many an odd job.

“I never expected to make a living as a writer,” he shared. “You have to have a job that is not too taxing. You can’t be a lawyer or a high school teacher. It’s too difficult to devote the time required for writing.”

Some of those gigs included playing an elf at Macy’s Santa Land and cleaning attics of dead squirrels.

“I don’t really have any skills, I type with one finger. I preferred jobs that were physically taxing, leaving my mind free for writing. It’s hard to have a sit-down job, and then come home and sit down to write.”

Sedaris’ career did not begin to bloom until his mid-30s, when he was discovered at a Chicago club by radio producer, Ira Glass.

“That changed everything for me,” said Sedaris. “I moved to New York, and he (Glass) asked me if I had anything Christmas-y to read. I told him I had worked as an elf. That became ‘The Santa Land Diaries.'”

The 1992 NPR piece was so popular that Sedaris became a weekly regular; and by age 40, he had become a best-selling author.

“It’s a test of perseverance. No one has their hand out for you when you get out of school. The reality of it all is when writers quit – or go to grad school.”

I asked why he chose a different path. “Depending on the person, I think grad school is a bad idea. Be out in the world; take some time off. Artists that go to grad school make art for the people that went to grad school.”

When not on tour, Sedaris makes his home in Normandy and London, where he has had a BBC-TV show for the past five seasons. “I get away with a lot, language-wise (in England). I don’t have to warn the audience that this story acknowledges the existence of sex.”

I asked why he has never branched out to film or scripted television. “I enjoy reading and writing my stories. I’ve been approached, but I don’t dream up clever scripts. I wish I could say, ‘I’m working on a musical.’ If I was a fraction as excited as the people who approach me are, I would do it. You have to be a team player in Hollywood, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m not one. I don’t think you become one at age 57.”

In true Sedaris fashion, he launched into a tangent. “Although I thought about doing a show about a really short detective. There’ve been all types of deformed detectives, but never a really short one, not like a dwarf, like 5′ 2” – but no one would ever talk about him being short. I got the idea while watching a Russell Crowe movie. He seemed short, so I Googled, ‘How tall is’ But before I could type, ‘Russell,’ ‘Jesus’ popped up. So I thought, ‘Actually I do want to know how tall Jesus was, I’ll get to Russell Crowe later.’ “

To date, Sedaris has not developed his short detective show, but he will be reading from his latest work, “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls,” Friday night at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center.


* Maui OnStage will hold auditions for “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Historic Iao Theater in Wailuku. The production will be directed by theater veteran Rick Scheideman, and rehearsals will begin in late March. All roles are available; character descriptions are at www Actors should memorize two, one-minute monologues, arrive 10 minutes early, bring a headshot and resume, and be prepared to provide potential schedule conflicts. Callbacks start March 17, with weekend performances May 9 through 25. Call 244-8680, Ext 23.

* Kamp Krazy Tales returns March 17. The Drama Queen (Kristi Scott) and Keyboard Kim (Kim Vetterli) are teaming up to present another drama/music Kamp this spring for keiki. Sessions will be held 9 a.m. to noon March 17 through 21 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei, with two-hour extended day care available. Students ages 5 to 12 will learn drama games and music techniques, culminating with a short performance for parents. Tuition is $150. Preregistration at 463-6550.