Tami Marston and Mark Turnbull share the musical direction of Truman Capote’s “Holiday Memories,” now playing at Oregon Cabaret Theatre. Tami and Mark perform in the show, as well. Mark is cast as Guitarist. He strolls through the stage action playing and singing his original music. Tami plays Woman, a series of memorable characters who enter and exit bringing color and humor to the various vignettes throughout the play. We got together over tea on one snowy afternoon.
EH: How many characters do you play?
TM: I play eight roles from age 1to 104 (in eight wigs), including Mrs. Ha-Ha, the saloon singer, with the Christmas bar song.
EH: Mark, was that your original song?
MT: It’s the double entendre Christmas song. It’s the whole idea of Mrs. Santa being so lonely on Christmas Eve, and an Elf knocks on the door and says, “Mrs. Clause is Santy gone, with his bag of halleluiah and his long-johns on? Red-rumped reindeer sleigh-bells full of noise. Well unlock the door; I want to show you some toys.”
EH: And that first song is marvelous.
MT: (singing) “November, December, remember.”
TM: “Holiday Memories,” it’s got a theme song.
MT: I felt it needed something to open the show.
EH: All kinds of melodies are enveloped in the show.
MT: I thought I would just underscore the play like a movie. I thought, “I’ll write these themes and I’ll just play them on the guitar and try to stay out of everybody’s way physically and texturally.”
TM: All of the main characters have their own themes, not just the main characters. He weaves them through, and they recur, and they change. It’s pretty brilliant.
EH: It’s so organic and seamless.
MT: Thank you, because that was the goal.
TM: His incredible original music is woven as well with songs from the period. We’ve got “Red Red Robin” and little glimpses of “Bird in the Guilded Cage” from the parlor songs. What else is in there?
MT: All of the Christmas pieces, too. The show also allows me to play lots of different styles of guitar which I enjoy.
TM: The play calls for a piano; there’s a piano in the parlor scene. But with Mark playing the guitar, it puts the music into the more rustic 1930s. It brings a different texture to it. He plays the guitar like some people play a piano; that is his style of playing. It makes for this wonderful rich tapestry.
MT: Michael Hume, the director, has done such a beautiful job of storytelling, and he is very aware of visual poetry. It’s so vivid.
TM: On the very first reading, Michael was talking about the leading element of this production, and that here clearly the language needs to lead. Capote’s writing is mesmerizing. In his short stories, even when he is not talking about pleasant things, you just can’t put him down.
MT: Norman Mailer said that Truman Capote was the best writer of his generation; he put together the most perfect sentences word upon word, rhythm upon rhythm.
TM: There is some material that is so basic in its truths that it transcends audience type and resonates, maybe in different places or in different ways, but it resonates for everybody.
Directed by Michael Hume and with music by Mark Turnbull, “Holiday Memories” plays through Dec. 31 with performances nightly, except Nov. 26, Dec.1, 8, 15, 21, 24, 25. For tickets and information, call 488-2902.
Evalyn Hansen is a resident of Ashland. She has a bachelor's degree in dramatic arts from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master's degree from San Francisco State University. She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre, and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.