Come home with Truman Capote to celebrate the season with Holiday Memories December 4-18 when Tennessee Repertory Theatre stages “The Thanksgiving Visitor” and “A Christmas Memory,” stirring recollections of the author’s childhood in the rural South during the Depression.
Directed by René Copeland, the production features David Alford, on-stage musicians, and an original score by Paul Carrol Binkley in the James K. Polk Theater at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center. For each performance, a limited number of cabaret table seats are available in the orchestra pit, with private bartender service provided.
Capote was in his 40s when he wrote these warm holiday tales, after the success of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and international notoriety of his non-fiction masterpiece In Cold Blood. Born in New Orleans in 1924, he was four years old when his parents sent him to live with a quartet of distant relatives in a small Alabama town, where his elderly cousin Sook Faulk became his close companion. One of his few childhood friends was Harper Lee, who portrayed him as Dill in the novel To Kill A Mockingbird.
For Holiday Memories, the audience is invited to a rambling farmhouse, where a lively, funny, story about friendship and forgiveness unfolds in the first act. Underscored by music reminiscent of the Depression, played by an ensemble on the guitar, banjo, stand-up bass, mandolin, piano, and other instruments, Alford portrays the adult author’s written voice, looking back on the Thanksgiving when Miss Sook invites the school bully to dinner, hoping the visit will help the two boys resolve their differences.
In the second act, with Binkley at his side, Alford invites the audience to “imagine a morning in early November” when the unconventional cousins mark the beginning of the holiday season by gathering the ingredients to bake fruitcake for the people in their lives who have been kind to them throughout the year. This tender story of their holiday traditions was made into an Emmy Award-winning television movie starring Geraldine Page in 1968.
“The two stories make a great pair for an afternoon or evening at the theatre. Capote was so successful as a writer because he makes universal connections to the emotions that all human beings feel,” said Copeland. “Though framed in the South during the Depression, the stories speak to all of us and capture what is truly valuable in our Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations – those relationships with the people that we love. ‘The Thanksgiving Visitor’ is a funny story about a specific incident in Capote’s childhood – a lively counterpoint and rich complement to ‘A Christmas Memory,’ which is more reflective and brings emotion and memory to life. Both stories are brimming with Capote’s unique sense of humor, magnificent language, and warm heart.”
Capote himself began writing short stories when he eight. His early stories were published in quality magazines, twice earning the O. Henry Memorial Short Story Prize. In 1948 his first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, was published to international critical acclaim, assuring Capote a place among the prominent postwar American writers. He died in 1984.
For nearly a decade, “A Christmas Memory’ was the centerpiece of the holiday offering of Nashville’s Mockingbird Theatre, founded by Alford in 1994, with Copeland joining him as his co-artistic director the following year.
“Many people made ‘A Christmas Memory’ a traditional part of their family’s season celebration,” said Copeland. “We’d start getting calls in August, asking about the performance dates. It truly wasn’t Christmas time for some of them until they saw this production.”
After several years of public performances, once in combination with “The Thanksgiving Visitor,” Alford and Binkley performed “A Christmas Memory” at an annual private event for Mockingbird members.
“In my opinion, what makes this so popular and so unique as a theatrical production is that it is a tour de force for one of our finest theatre artists and one of our finest musicians,” said Copeland. “It is totally a showcase for David Alford, calling in all of his skills as an actor and showing the expanse and range of his ability. The addition of the music, performed on stage by Paul, makes it a duet. The best actor I know is performing with the best musician I know. You won’t see anything like this anywhere else.”
Scenic and costume design is by Gary C. Hoff, with lighting design by Chris Wilson and sound design is by Darin Karnes. David Wilkerson is the stage manager.
A variety of events to complement Holiday Memories are open to the public, including a discussion with David Alford on Monday, December 6 at 6:00 p.m. at Davis-Kidd Booksellers, 1001 Hillsboro Pike and a pre-show discussion at the theater on Friday, December 10 at 6:45 p.m. For information on a package including brunch and an exhibit at Cheekwood on December 5 and December 12, call 615/782-4060 or visit the web site www.tnrep.org. Ticket-holders who make reservations in advance by calling 615/244-3121 can enjoy tea at the Hermitage Hotel prior to the matinee performances on December 5 and 12.
During the run of Holiday Memories, Tennessee Rep is collecting non-perishable food goods from audience members for donation to Second Harvest Food Bank.
Performance times Holiday Memories December 4-18 are: 6:30 p.m., Tuesday; 7:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday; with matinees at 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 12.
Tickets range in price from $15 – $42. Tickets for students ages 18 and under or with college identifications are available for half price. $10 student rush tickets are available one hour before show time at the downtown box office with valid I.D., subject to availability. To purchase tickets, visit the TPAC Box Office (Downtown at 505 Deaderick St. or at Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Green Hills), the web site at www.tnrep.org, or any Ticketmaster outlet. Tickets may also be purchased by calling Ticketmaster at 615/255-ARTS (2787). For group tickets, call TPAC Group Sales at 615/782-4060.
“Holiday Memories” will be presented Dec. 4-18, 2004 at James K. Polk Theater, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, 505 Deaderick Street, Nashville.
Week One: 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 4; 4 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5 (Preview Performances). Week Two 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 7 (Press and Media Performance); 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 9-11; 4 p.m., Sunday, Sept. Dec. 12; Opening Night is Thursday, Dec. 9. Week Three 7:30 p.m., Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 16-18; 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 18. Tickets: $15-$42 available at the TPAC Box Office (Downtown, 505 Deaderick St. or Davis-Kidd Booksellers in Green Hills); Ticketmaster outlets or by calling Ticketmaster, 615/255-ARTS (2787)