'Holiday Memories' at Oregon Cabaret Theatre

Fruitcake, cutting down the perfect Christmas tree, handmade gifts and traditional music — all icons of the holiday season — are at the heart of Oregon Cabaret Theatre's production of "Holiday Memories."

Based on two short stories, "A Thanksgiving Visitor" and "A Christmas Memory," written by Truman Capote, the works were adapted for the stage by Russell Vandenbroucke.

"These are Capote's memories of being a 7-year-old sent to live with distant, odd relatives in Alabama during the 1930s and the Great Depression," says director Michael J. Hume. "They're full of the author's responses to being abandoned by his parents and pushed around by a neighborhood bully, but at the same time they're filled with the nostalgic and sweet-natured themes of the holidays."

"A Christmas Memory" was originally published in Mademoiselle magazine in December 1956. "The Thanksgiving Visitor" was written in 1967.

"We're doing them in order of the holidays as Act One and Act Two," Hume says. "They're more like vignettes, like flashes of memory. Each act has a linear string."

"Holiday Memories" will be presented in a narrative style, with actor John Stadelman speaking the part of the adult Capote and two young actors, Braden Day and Braden Fastidio, alternating the role of Buddy, or Capote as a boy.

Brandy Carson plays Sook, one of the elderly household members whom Buddy forms a joyful and comforting friendship with.

Together, Buddy and Sook set about making things right with the town bully, Odd Henderson, by inviting him to Thanksgiving dinner. Buddy and Sook also buy bootleg whiskey from the sinister Mr. Haha Jones that they use to make fruitcake. Then the two friends set out to find the perfect Christmas tree and fashion handmade Christmas presents for each other, the others in the house and Queenie, the dog.

Capote's autobiographical, homespun prose — dramatized by Vandenbroucke — will be scored with traditional and original music by guitarist Mark Turnbull. Musical direction is by Turnbull and Tamara Marston.

"There are five actors playing about 20 roles in the play," Hume says. "And about 80 percent of the play is between Buddy and Sook," Hume says. "What's interesting is that they stop mid-scene and continue the storytelling."

"The stories also are touching because as Buddy gets older, he and Sook grow apart," Hume says.

Sook and Buddy spent their last Christmas together just before it was decided that Capote was to attend military school.

Hume is a longtime actor at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He has directed several shows at Southern Oregon University, including the 2008-09 production of "Dick Whittington and His Cat."

"Capote is a fascinating guy," Hume says. "He was a wild New York socialite that hobnobbed with all of the stars. We know who he was, but we're not calling attention to that side of him. We're calling attention to the warm, fuzzy stories of his youth."

Carson, Stadelman and Marston return to the roles that they played in OCT's 1996 production of "Holiday Memories." They are joined by Jerry Lee, a recent graduate of Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts, as the bully Odd Henderson and other characters.

OCT's "Holiday Memories" set design is by Michael Halderman, costume design by Kerri Lea Robbins, lighting design by Bridget Carlson, sound design by Tom Freeman and props are by Roxanna Clover. Kathleen Mahoney is the production's stage manager.

Tickets are available at 488-2902, online at oregoncabaret.com or at the theater's box office at Hargadine and First streets. Box office hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Mondays and 4 to 6 p.m. Sundays.

Ticket prices do not include food or beverages. Advance reservations will be required for dinner or brunch. Appetizers, desserts and beverages will be available without reservations.

Those who plan to attend OCT's "Holiday Memories" with a group or on dates close to the holidays are encouraged to purchase tickets early.

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