David Sedaris at the Mount Baker Theatre

By Stella Harvey

David Sedaris read essays about everything from cats in a bar in Japan to getting a spray-tan in Australia at a sold-out show at the Mount Baker Theatre on Friday, May 4.

Sedaris is known for his hilarious essays and short stories that offer social critiques through his humorous accounts of events, according to the event program. He is regularly published in The New Yorker magazine and has twice been included in “The Best American Essays,” a collection of short stories released annually.

The event was part of the theater’s “Booked at the Baker” series,  a partnership between Village Books and Mount Baker Theatre which brings authors to the community.

Claire McElroy-Chesson, events coordinator at Village Books and Paper Dreams, said Sedaris has visited Mount Baker Theatre in the past and he has a large fan base in town.

“He is just the quintessential entertainer,” McElroy-Chesson said. “He sells out every time and with good reason because he is so funny, but he is also so thoughtful.”

McElroy-Chesson said Booked at the Baker events are an important part of both organizations’ missions, making this a natural partnership. She said books are often the catalysts for people to discuss different ideas.

“I don’t even know how to emphasize the importance of books [enough],” McElroy-Chesson said. “Thinking about what the future might look like, books are just absolutely vital.”

As people shuffled through the lobby toward the theater doors, their eyes got wide when they realized Sedaris was casually sitting at gray folding table just a few feet away.

“He is just the quintessential entertainer,”

Claire McElroy-Chesson

Events Coordinator at Village Books and Paper Dreams

 

Executive director of the Mount Baker Theatre Brad Burdick said the theater is happy to have Sedaris back because of the way audience members have responded to his performances in the past.

“People who come to the show will be in tears one moment and be laughing hysterically the next,” Burdick said. “He just really knows how to captivate an audience.”

As Sedaris walked through the curtains and up to the podium in the middle of the stage to begin the show, the crowd applauded excitedly.

While reading an essay about visiting a firing range with his sister Lisa, Sedaris casually took off his jacket, threw it on the ground and rolled up his sleeves. He stopped reading to take a sip of water after a punchline as the whole room laughed.

“Just listening to him talk and watching him as he’s reading different segments of the books and telling the backstory,” Burdick said. “It’s just mesmerizing.”

McElroy-Chesson said one of the reasons Village Books and Mount Baker Theater love to have Sedaris come to town is his commitment to local bookstores.

“David Sedaris is very insistent that at his events, an independent bookseller be involved,” McElroy-Chesson said. “So we are really really grateful to him.”  

She said whenever Sedaris makes an appearance, he selects another author’s work to recommend. For this event, Sedaris selected “Homesick for Another World” by Ottessa Moshfegh. He ended his reading by sharing a few paragraphs from the book with the audience.

Burdick said events like these are just one of the many kinds of performances that come to Mount Baker Theatre. He said they have had a wide variety of performers over the years from Pearl Jam to Steve Martin and everything in between.

“Whether [it’s] through dance or song or written work, we want this to be a place where people feel comfortable expressing themselves,” Burdick said.

At the end of his performance, Sedaris picked his jacket up from the ground as the red velvet curtains opened and gave one last wave to the audience. People made their way out to the lobby and into the signing line, smiles on their faces.

The book-signing line wrapped around the lobby and through a hallway into the next room. Each person in line stood with their feet close together, holding their books to their chests, anxiously awaited their chance to meet Sedaris.

Attendee April Shipman was waiting in line holding her copy of Sedaris’ book “Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002.” She said the day before the event was her birthday and in honor of the celebration and the event, she donned a blue tiara.

Shipman has been waiting for this for a while, too. She said she has been a fan of Sedaris’ work since she was a child.

“My mom made the unfortunate choice of exposing him to me when I was little and I’ve just adored him since,” Shipman said. “Everybody can relate to what he has been through in some sort of different way.”

Burdick said that one of the most unique parts of Sedaris’ events is his commitment to signing the book of every person who waits in line, no matter how long it takes. McElroy-Chesson said he speaks to every person as if they were the only one in line.

“Last time he was here it was about three and a half hours after the performance,” Burdick said. “We have to provide him dinner while he’s actually signing because he’s planning on being there for so long.”

When it was Shipman’s turn to have her book signed, Sedaris pulled something out of a tote bag on the table. With tears in her eyes, Shipman said when she told him it was her birthday, he gave her the only gift he could find–a travel size lotion from the Four Seasons.

Burdick encouraged students to visit the theatre more, saying he is always open to hearing what performers students would like to see. Additionally, Burdick said if tickets are still available on the day of a show, students can purchase them for half price.

For more information on Village Books and Paper Dreams, visit their website or stop by 1200 11th Street Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m..

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