A Cautionary Yuletide Tale

We’ve become inured to it, I fear. Exposed to it on a regular basis, we’ve come to accept it as just another part of our lives. And we cannot. We must not. What we witnessed this past weekend was an affront to our shared values, our cultural history, and our national pride, and we dare not allow it to be normalized.

Yes, it was SantaCon this past weekend.

I’ve lost track of how often those drunken belligerent revelers, those vomit-and-entitlement drenched false Kris Kringles, have inconvenienced me in the course of my life and career here in New York. I’ve made my way through Grand Central Station, en route to a semi-regular holiday gig in Connecticut, and been forced to desperately weave my way through mobs of sloshed elves in order to catch my train. I’ve trudged through what appeared to be a red and green war zones in order to make my call time at a Lower East Side venue. Even this year, when I was simply going to and from my day job, I had to share a subway ride with a lunatic in a David Pumpkins-style gingerbread man suit – at 8:30 in the damn morning. I’m far from alone in this – every December, decent citizens of this city steel themselves against the throngs of brawling, berserk brats running amok on that terrible day-long pub crawl, and desperately try to go about their day. And quite possibly, as they’re subjected to these costumed carolers puking their guts out on the sidewalk and on each other, these sober citizens try and keep their resolve by thinking to themselves, “at least I’m better than that.”

Part of me wishes I could. But as a theater artist, I can’t.

Because we created SantaCon.

It wasn’t intentional, of course. At this point, the details of SantaCon’s origins are largely forgotten by the general public (at least that portion sober enough to even try to remember). But when the event was first created, in San Francisco in 1994, it was intended to be a piece of street theater. Its creators were inspired by European political protest theater, and designed an event meant to poke fun at consumerism. (You can read the details here🙂 It’s exactly the sort of progressive whimsy that theater artists were creating throughout those halcyon days of the 90s. It couldn’t possibly have been interpreted as anything other than silliness.

Except it was. And the monstrous misinterpretation of this event – by aging fratboys, bond traders looking to blow off steam, and weekend binge drinkers of every stripe – has by now completely supplanted what its creators hoped to make. Has created the exact opposite of what its creators hoped to make.

Is it the fault of the creators? Of course not – no matter how drunk the drunken douchebros might be, they still bear responsibility for their actions each December. But it’s still a cautionary tale – and one all writers and tellers of tales need to heed. It’s easy for us to stay within our own heads, assume that our creations will be interpreted in the specific way we interpret them. To write and perform for an audience of one – ourselves. But audiences are vast and uncontrollable things, and we need to remember that they’re capable of anything. Even downing half a dozen jello shots while dressed as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.

Leave a Reply