A Christmas Memory
I’m not a Truman Capote aficionado, although the more I learn about him, the more I think I could be. I’ve heard of In Cold Blood, his non-fiction murder exposé. I’ve seen the dulcet and sassy Breakfast at Tiffany’s, but I’ve never read that novel, either. In fact, my only semi-first-hand experience with Capote was watching him play the role of Lionel Twain, a man with no pinkies and a fetish for murder mysteries, in the film Murder by Death. But now, I know more. I know Capote wrote a very poignant autobiographical holiday story titled A Christmas Memory and, through that story, I know that a portion of his childhood was spent in the company of a dear aunt, far away from the high society that would later assimilate him and flaunt his talent and fame.
The infant company Alliance Repertory Theatre is christening their brand new group with a performance of Capote’s A Christmas Memory. Alliance founder Jacqueline Fisher thought it the perfect initiation production.
“It’s a quirky little piece,” Fisher said. “It reminds me of my grandma and my dad, and I wanted them with me when I started this.”
Fisher was with another local theater group before deciding that certain political aspects of that company didn’t sit well with her. So she decided to go it on her own. The time, she said, just felt right.
Bill Tanner, of 98 KBUL’s morning show “The Moo Crew,” was involved in a theater production with Fisher when she mentioned starting up a new company. He said he’d like to join the ride should she get the engine revving.
A Christmas Memory is performed exactly as Capote’s short story of the same name is written. Tanner plays Buddy, the young boy narrator. Fisher plays Buddy’s aunt and is only referred to as “my friend.” The story is a simple portrait of an old woman who swallows every joy of the Christmas season—making and mailing fruitcakes, handcrafting gifts, cutting and dressing the tree—like it was her last bite. At times, Fisher reads the story as a narrator, but she’s usually the character of the joyous aunt who has “never been to a movie or a restaurant … never worn cosmetics … never told a lie on purpose … never cursed … and never let a hungry dog go hungry.”
Fisher’s performance is high-caliber. Though she plays a woman decades her senior, I never saw anybody other than the sweet old woman I wished was my own aunt or grandma. Tanner’s performance was a subtle complement.
The play is performed reader’s theater style. Scripts rest in the actors’ hands at all times, although they are rarely looked at—"It’s a good safety prop,” Tanner said.
Alliance Rep is performing at Dreamer’s Coffeehouse and Deli. Even though they’re in the dregs money-wise, Fisher is already dedicating performances to charity. The cost for the performance I saw was a donation to Toys for Tots.
“You can’t grow unless you give something away,” Fisher said.
Fisher is still looking for a few good philanthropists to help Alliance establish a new home (it does get a bit noisy in Dreamer’s, what with the milk steaming). Even so, this tender performance should not be missed. It put me in higher holiday spirits than listening to Christmas music and watching my favorite Christmas movie, A Christmas Story, combined.