INTERVIEW with SANTASIA’S Writer/Director/Actor Shaun Loeser now playing at the Whitefire Theatre through December 25
SANTASIA – A HOLIDAY COMEDY is now playing at the Whitefire Theatre through December 25. “SANTASIA – A Holiday Comedy” created by Shaun Loeser and Brandon Loeser, directed by Shaun Loeser, choreographed by Tania L. Pearson-Loeser, with musical direction by Stacey Quinealty is celebrating its 17th year.
Read the NoHoArtsDistrict.Com REVIEW>>
SANTASIA has been a Critics Pick for the past 16 Years in L.A. and will, for the second time, run Off-Broadway at NYC’s St. Luke’s Theatre. This hilarious, laugh out loud annual holiday romp and cult hit is the perfect blend of Yuletide snark and sentiment, has been compared to “The Carol Burnett Show,” “The Kids in the Hall,” “In Living Color,” “Saturday Night Live” and the likes of Vaudeville. This multi-media holiday special has it all including classic Rankin and Bass claymation inspired movies, musical parodies, and heartfelt holiday moments.
Read the Santasia theatre review>>
When and how did you first get involved with theatre?
I was in second grade at St. Anne’s Catholic School when I played ‘First Elf’ in our Christmas Play – – an elf who didn’t believe in the commercialization of Christmas.
While in Culinary School in Chicago, I started training and performing at the original Improv Olympic Conservatory. I studied improvisation with Del Close, who was formerly the director of Second City before starting ImprovOlympic who also taught the likes of Bill Murray, John Candy, John Belushi and Jim Belushi. My improv team coach was Amy Poehler, who would later star on “Saturday Night Live” and “Parks and Recreation.” Under the direction of Del Close, we developed a popular main stage show “My Life in Improv”. Over the years, I continued to perform on various House Teams and other main stage shows at IO.
Del’s direction and story-telling technique is the foundation of how Santasia was created. The story-telling we did was always grounded in truth. “Truth in Comedy” is what Del taught me, and there’s nothing’s funnier than real life.
What was the genesis for what is now SANTASIA?
Well, on July 1, 2000, our dad lost a hard-fought battle with cancer. He actually had the disease 3 different times. Dad always made Christmas the best time of year for us kids.
So when the holidays started approaching my brother, Brandon, and I agreed instead of grieving Christmas time…let’s make fun of it. That’s what our dad would have wanted anyway. Our dad was a joker and the funniest guy we ever knew. Plus, I thought it was going to be cheaper than seeing a shrink…16 years later, it turns out I was wrong.
The show has been going strong for 17 holiday seasons – – to what do you attribute the success of the show?
It’s the connection the audience makes with the material and the characters – – because all of the sketches are true stories. Everyone can relate to so many of the scenes. It takes the audience back to those special, innocent moments in our lives…when Christmas time was just simple.
Is it the same show each year, or do you add new skits to the piece?
Many of the skits have become cult classics that our audiences DEMAND to see again and again, but we still do change 30 to 40 percent of the show. Santasia is about tradition, and like “It’s A Charlie Brown Christmas” it’s refreshing to see just the way we remembered seeing it the last time we watched it. However, that being said, we also shamelessly parody a movie or show we deem should be made fun of. Also, I purposely direct and do not write current jokes into the sketches…so the audience can be transported back to their childhood. And that’s the magic…telling our stories reminds them of their own “favorite Christmas memories.”
This year you took SANTASIA – A Holiday Comedy to New York City for an Off-Broadway run at St. Luke’s Theatre. How did that come about? How did it go playing in both NYC and LA at the same time?
Santasia played at the Whitmore-Lindley for 3 years…I believe 2002 through 2005 and that’s when we met the theatre owner Ed Gaynes. Ed seemed to like us and started to mentor us about producing. Most of the time, he just told me to charge more money for the show. Ed also really liked my wife Tania’s choreography…In fact he liked Tania’s work so much he hired her in 2004, to choreograph Alice in Wonderland Off-Broadway. That’s when and where Tania and I got engaged…but that’s another story.
In 2005, Ed bought St. Luke’s Theatre in NYC and I said,“ Let’s take Santasia to NY!!!” Ed laughed and said, “I hope you have a lot of rich uncles.”
Cut to 10 years later 2015, Ed writes on Facebook “I’m coming to LA who wants to pitch me a show!” I half-joked again and wrote…Santasia! Ed wrote back and said “I know Santasia. Let’s have lunch.” So Tania, my brother Brandon and I met Ed at the Magnolia Grill and hashed out this crazy idea of taking Santasia to NYC! Ed convinced us that it could be done. So the journey to NYC began.
We thought if we crowd funded we might get enough money to get this off the ground. So we started an Indieagogo campaign and raised enough funds to get us to NY. Thanks to the love, support, and generosity of our loyal fans it happened!
And playing New York City has been a dream come true. The shows went well last year, although it was a bit crazy. We performed in NYC – Tuesday nights and Wednesday matinees, then flew back to LA and performed Santasia on the weekends… for 6 weeks! It was fun, I just never knew what time it was or what day it was! Word of mouth spread in NYC, and it looks Santasia is now a hit on both coasts!
This year we have eight shows scheduled playing Tuesdays and Wednesdays, December 13 through December 18, 2016 at St. Luke’s Theatre in Manhattan. For tickets and more information about the New York shows please visit www.santasia.com.
Is there anything else you might want us to know or you want to share about SANTASIA?
Santasia is a gift we received from our dad, and every year it is an honor and a privilege to be a part of someone’s holiday tradition. It is truly very humbling. It really is remarkable that out of our pain we can create so much happiness…and that’s a great gift and lesson that our dad, Bill Loeser, taught his silly sons!
Warning: Santasia is based upon true life stories we just make sure we keep the fun in dysfunction!
SANTASIA – A HOLIDAY COMEDY December 2 – December 25, 2016
Loser Kids Productions presents SANTASIA – A HOLIDAY COMEDY, Critics Pick for 16 Years! and Ovation Nominated Production, is a laugh out loud, hilarious annual holiday romp and cult hit, is the perfect blend of Yuletide snark and sentiment; compared to the Kids in the Hall, the Carol Burnett Show and the likes of Vaudeville. Los Angeles shows available Dec. 2 – Dec. 25, 2016. Please check the website for show times and tickets. Advance Tix online $27. At the door $40. www.santasia.com. Whitefire Theatre, 13500 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks 91423. PG 13.
Shaun Loeser (Producer, Director, Actor, Co-Writer) Most recently Shaun has been shoved in a mattress by Lady Gaga, kicked in the face by Will Ferrell and thrown down 50 stairs by David Koechner, all for no reason. Hailing from Chicago, Shaun trained with legendary improv guru Del Close. As a professional actor and stuntman, he has appeared in: American Horror Story: Hotel, Conan, Step Brothers, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, NCIS LA, True Blood, General Hospital, CSI, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Comebacks, Numbers, GCB, iCarly, Pair of Kings, My Name is Earl, The Sarah Silverman Program, Kambakkht Ishq and other stuff. IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2227970/
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