Cardiff Schoolhouse theatre Director Nick Garay takes to the stage, solo | AspenTimes.com

Cardiff Schoolhouse theatre Director Nick Garay takes to the stage, solo

April Clark
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — In just nine days, at a rate of three pages per day, actor Nick Garay memorized 27 pages of script.

In theater, that's not necessarily an easy feat. Especially with only a three-week window to put on a one-man production.

"I only gave myself three weeks because I couldn't really do the show during December," said Garay, of Glenwood Springs, who is directing and performing in "Santaland Diaries," opening at 7 p.m. today and running through the holiday weekend at the Cardiff Schoolhouse.

Garay chose the David Sedaris comedy, adapted for stage by Joe Mantello, as his first professional show as both an actor and director after reading the essay featured in Sedaris' "Holidays on Ice."

"I laughed so much and thought, 'I wonder if I could do this as a one-man show,'" he said.

Garay bought the rights to do the play, scheduled the historic schoolhouse three weeks out and started memorizing his lines. He plays Sedaris, a self-proclaimed slacker who finds a job as an elf at Macy's in New Yorkduring the holidays in the newspaper classifieds.

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The real-life comedy goes from there.

"I'll be dressed as an elf, with red-and white-striped tights, an elf hat, elf shoes, and a red turtleneck," Garay said. "I have to wear a lot of hats for this performance, too. The directing, acting, marketing. Luckily it's a show I can improvise. As I read it, it tells a story."

Garay, a 2005 Glenwood Springs High School alumnus, is the first graduate of Colorado Mountain College's Associate of Arts theater program. He is launching his one-man show as the newly appointed director of the theater and arts component of Cardiff's ongoing Camp Chair Productions. Glenwood Springs actors Jack Green and Bob Wiley started the theater troupe five years ago in the historic landmark, which was built in 1889.

"I found theater and found out it was my passion," Garay said. "My ultimate goal is to make a living at it."

Garay initially met Green when the two actors performed in the Camp Chair Productions comedy "Fuddy Mirrors" two summers ago. Green said he wanted Garay to take an active part in continuing the tradition of small, live theater productions at the Cardiff Schoolhouse.

"The place hasn't really been defined yet, and that's what I think he's going to bring," Green said. "He has more of that youthful push we need."

Garay's random encounter with Green, a retired Glenwood Springs High School history teacher, as he waited on his table during his day job as a server at Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. proved fruitful for the young actor.

"He said he wanted to do theater, and I said, 'Why don't you run theater out of there?'" Green said. "He's tapping into a whole different reality than I have. He's quick, quick, quick. He's on Facebook and Twitter, and he has that young energy that will get everybody all lit up."

Garay likened the opportunity to utilize the Cardif Schoolhouse's intimate space while focusing on comedies and small, lighthearted shows to a dream becoming reality.

"Jack Green was like an angel coming to me and saying, 'I have this offer for you," Garay said. "What I can do is focus on the quality of acting.'"

Along with CMC Theatre and Camp Chair Productions acting credits to his name, Garay also is taking his acting career to the next level as a member of Thunder River Theatre Company in Carbondale. He said support from Camp Chair, CMC and Thunder River has been integral in helping him follow his professional theater pursuits.

"The CMC experience will always have a special place in my heart," he said. "And my new theater family at Thunder River, especially Lon Winston, is really helping me get my foot in the door. My future lies there, too."

Although the weekend's "Santaland Diaries" is prominent on his mind as he runs through his lines, Garay also is looking to his future as an actor and director. In January, he will star in "Amadeus" at Aspen's Wheeler Opera House as Mozart, a role he previously played with CMC Theatre. He also has plans to bring "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)" parody to the Cardiff Schoolhouse in March.

"I'm excited and very hopeful," he said. "But I'm also confident and looking forward to my first attempt professionally at a one-man show."

Seating for the "Santaland Diaries" one-man comedy show, taking place at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29 and Saturday, Nov. 30 and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 1, is limited. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 general admission, and are available at the door, which opens at 6:30 p.m. Parking is limited in the Park East subdivision, so Garay suggests attendees carpool.