In Part 3 of a series of interviews with the cast of WSC Avant Bard’s production of Holiday Memories—a stage adaptation of two classic short stories by Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory” and “The Thanksgiving Visitor—meet Christopher Henley.
Joel: Where have local audiences seen you perform recently on stage?
Christopher: At The American Century Theater (Rudolph Peterson in Judgment at Nuremberg), Quotidian Theatre Company (Frank Hardy in Faith Healer), WSC Avant Bard (Cardinal Pandulph in King John and Spooner in No Man’s Land).
Why did you want to be part of the cast of Holiday Memories at Avant Bard?
I read the script and was enchanted by the language and by the vividness of the descriptions of place, people, emotion, memory. Also, short-form narratives (one-act plays, short stories) generally allow exploration of smaller events and subtler emotions than full-length pieces, and I found that aspect of the play charming.
Who do you play in the show?
I play Truman, who is the narrator looking back on childhood experiences. Although clearly based on Truman Capote, the author of the short stories that are the source material for this play, it isn’t meant to be a Phillip Seymour Hoffman-like biographical portrait, but more an impressionistic and (I hope) somewhat universal exploration of the ways in which people interact with the past and their formative years and relationships.
How do you relate to him?
There are a lot of ways in which I relate to Truman. I travelled a similar path of self-comprehension, beginning from a similar situation: attracted to others of the same sex, and to the worlds of imagination, creativity, and art (as opposed to sports and other, more masculine, inclinations) in an “era and locale” that did not particularly encourage either inclination.
What’s the show about from the point of view of your character?
I would say that it is an affectionate memoir of a special relationship and of the time of year that most vividly recalls it. There is also an engagingly Chekhovian motif involving how a sophisticated and urbane man of letters might look back on a simpler, less complicated part of his life with a sense of loss.
What are your own favorite holiday memories?
Thanksgiving: Returning to DC from early afternoon Thanksgiving dinners in southern Pennsylvania, my family would stop in Thurmont, MD, where a liquor store would be inexplicably open. We would stock up for the rest of the drive home (with my 30-years-sober brother at the wheel) and debrief. Christmas: Everyone in my family would bring over the Christmas cards we’d received. We would put them around the house, everyone would look at them all, and then we would vote in various categories (best card, worst card, trendiest card, most clueless card, etc., including some categories not suitable for publication).
If you could be granted one holiday wish, what would it be?
That violence would cease to be a defining aspect of our species, and that we would take greater and more forward-thinking care of our planet.
What is your favorite line or lines that your character says?
I have so many wonderful lines, it’s difficult to choose a favorite, but I’ll go with “Here, there, a flash, a flutter, an ecstasy of shrillings remind us that not all the birds have flown south.” I chose it because it is a wonderful demonstration of the way he uses rhythm, alliteration, and fabulously unexpected choices to paint a striking, unforgettable image.
What is your favorite line that someone else says in the show?
“There is only one unpardonable sin—deliberate cruelty.”
What are you doing next on the stage?
I have no idea.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing Holiday Memories?
I hope that many are moved by the memories evoked, the relationship described, and the gloriousness of the prose; and that they enjoy a less-familiar family-appropriate holiday-themed option among the Nutcrackers and Scrooges.
Holiday Memories plays from November 25 to December 20, 2015 at WSC Avant Bard performing at Theatre on the Run – 3700 South Four Mile Run Drive, in Arlington, VA. For tickets, call the box office at (703) 418-4808, or purchase them online.
David Siegel’s 5 star review of ‘Holiday Memories’ on DCMetroTheaterArts.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘Holiday Memories’: Part 1: Séamus Miller.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘Holiday Memories’: Part 2: Liz Dutton.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘Holiday Memories’: Part 3: Christopher Henley.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘Holiday Memories’ Part 4: Charlotte Akin.
Meet the Cast of Avant Bard’s ‘Holiday Memories’ Part 5: Devon Ross.