Tuesday, December 6, 2016


For the last thirty-three years, the Theatre Artists Workshop has been welcoming professional actors, writers and directors, basically all aspects of theatre people, to "exercise their artistic muscles" in creative ways, most recently in their home at the Masonic Lodge, 5 Gregory Boulevard, in East Norwalk.  Modeled after Los Angeles' Theatre East, the group meets every Monday night at 8 p.m., devoting themselves to prepared works, many written by the members themselves, where they perform or direct, or even both.

Recently the members dedicated themselves to a nostalgic duet of homespun tales created by Truman Capote entitled "Holiday Memories."  This classic night of concert reading featured Mark Basile as the middle aged Truman reflecting on the past, Katie C. Sparer as the involved young Truman who called himself Buddy in those days, JoAnne Parady as Buddy's delicate and simple minded elder cousin Miss Sook Falk, with Granville Burgess as the man (and dog Queenie) and Melody James as assorted female characters.  Technical direction was provided by P.J. Letersky and direction by Mark Basile and Katie C. Sparer.

It's Alabama in 1932 in these short stories penned by Capote about his childhood, "The Thanksgiving Visitor" and "A Christmas Memory," adapted by Russell Vandenbroucke.  Truman lives in a country home with distant relatives and he develops a special relationship with his much older cousin Miss Sook. The seven year old Buddy sees her as his only friend and with her terrier Queenie they create a unique family unit.

Buddy is beset at school by a bully, Odd Henderson, and Miss Sook determines that inviting the enemy into their midst for Thanksgiving dinner will surely make the situation better.  When Odd shows up for the meal, Buddy does not achieve the desired results.

In the second tale, when Miss Sook announces "It's fruitcake weather," we are privy to the elaborate preparations the two engage in to make at least thirty delicacies for the Christmas holiday.  Gathering piles of pecans (by stealing them from a neighbor's trees) and using nickels and dimes from their year round sale of flowers and jam, and earning pennies by killing flies for relatives, to buy a bottle of whiskey, the pair assemble the raisins, citron, butter, flour and sugar needed.  They mail the cakes to people who are kind to them, even to strangers like President Roosevelt whom they admire.

The special relationship they share is a treasure for only a few brief years until Buddy is sent off to military school, but these stories illustrate how meaningful it was for both of them while it lasted.  The Theatre Artists Workshop performers made it incredibly real and poignant, genuine and touching.  The only way it could have been more delightful would have been to have slices of Buddy and Miss Sook's favorite fruitcake to sample.

This intimate 93 seat theatre will soon be hosting a Playwrights weekend and a Film Screening weekend in the new year.  Watch for them to be announced on www.taworkshop.org.  Area professionals are welcome to join this creative endeavor by calling 203-854-6830

The group was founded originally by Keir Dullea, who is still actively involved, and his late wife Susie Fuller and its membership over the years has included Anne Baxter, Theodore Bikel, Sandy Dennis, Mia Dillon, Christopher Durang, Shirley Knight, James Noble and Jane Powell, to name a few.

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