The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Kraig Swartz as Truman Capote. Courtesy photo.


Where: Peterborough Players, 55 Hadley Road, Peterborough 
When: Thursday, June 28, and Friday, June 29, 7:30 p.m., Saturday, June 30, 8 p.m., and Sunday, July 1, 4 p.m. 
Tickets: $42 

Tru to life
Kraig Swartz portrays Truman Capote in one-man play


 By Angie Sykeny
It’s a week before Christmas, 1975, nearly 10 years after Truman Capote achieved enormous success for his true crime novel In Cold Blood. He has, for the most part, taken a hiatus from writing and become swept up in the jet set lifestyle of New York City’s elite. To make his comeback in the literary world, he decides to write what he knows: a roman a clef based on his recent adventures, complete with comically revealed dirt on his fellow socialites. After an excerpt from the book in progress is published in Esquire magazine, Capote finds himself ostracized and alone. 
This sets the scene for Jay Presson Allen’s 1989 Broadway monodrama Tru. Adapted from Truman Capote’s own words and works, it follows the writer through a lonely, drug- and alcohol-fueled night at his Manhattan apartment, during which he muses on his dilapidated personal life and career. 
New York City actor Kraig Swartz stars in the Peterborough Players’ production of Tru, which is running now through July 1. Swartz shared his thoughts about the play and what it’s like to portray Truman Capote. 
In your own words, what is Tru about? 
Truman traded in his career for his position in society … then is rejected by the society he gave up his career for, so he faces a moment of complete desolation. The play is about his funny and gallant way of keeping his spirits afloat on the first night in his life when the telephone isn’t ringing. … Truman is a self-made man, both with his success and his own destruction. By the end of the show, he has come out on the other end. His life isn’t suddenly fixed, but he is going to pick up his burdens and carry them proudly and not allow himself to be destroyed. 
How did you land the role? 
I live in New York City, but spend every summer in Peterborough, performing with the Peterborough Players. This was the year they decided to do Tru, and I was offered the job. I’m not sure why, actually. In the wig and makeup, I do have a resemblance [to Capote], and he was famous for having a strange, high, childish voice, and I do kind of have a high voice. … It scared the crap out of me, honestly. A one-man show is a pretty heavy lift. But in my experience, if something scares you, that’s a good sign that you should think about doing it. 
What is Truman Capote’s character like in Tru? 
He’s incredibly energetic and funny and charming. Even though he’s alone, he’s really active, playing music and dancing, telling stories and jokes, making phone calls to anyone who will talk to him, and at some point in the play, he notices the audience, and the fourth wall comes down, and he tells them, ‘Look, here’s what’s going on.’ I think he’s trying to entertain himself and the audience so he doesn’t have to think about what’s really knocking at the door of his brain, which is, ‘Do I have a single friend left in the world? Do I have a career? What will become of me?’ 
How did you prepare for this role? 
I tried to get as much information about him as I could. I watched many videos of interviews he did from the late ’60s to the late ’70s, but at a certain point, I had to put those away, because I didn’t want it to just be an evening of impersonation. …  I did what every actor does; I created a character that is part Truman Capote and part me. I looked at how the experiences that Truman talks about match up with comparable experiences in my own life, so that I could bring honest emotion to the show. 
How did you recreate Truman Capote’s physical appearance? 
I’m a bit larger [in height] than Truman, so we scaled things on the set to be a little bigger, like raising the mantel on the fireplace so that I would appear smaller. I’m also relatively thin, and Truman had gained a good deal of weight by the Christmas of 1975, so we had to work out where the body pads would go to achieve the right level of portliness. … Then, we had to figure out Truman’s hair, which is white-blonde and deeply receding at the temples. I wasn’t quite willing to shave my head, so I worked with a wig designer who created this amazing Truman wig that gives the illusion of deeply recessed temples. 
What about his voice? 
If I planned to do a spot-on imitation of Truman Capote, I’d be in terrible trouble. In a live show, you have to fill the theater with the sound of your voice in the most energetic way possible, and how do you do that when you’re playing a person whose energy is so slow and contemplative and laidback? It’s impossible to do the real Capote voice in that type of setting, so we had to figure out how to honor the qualities of his voice and the distinctive things about it that people have come to expect in a way that is not only audible, but also dynamic and emotionally engaging, and I think we struck a good balance. 
What has been the biggest challenge of performing in Tru? 
The sheer size of it, in terms of being a one-man show, and conquering the fear of that Herculean task. Every time we run through the show, I still get anxiety, thinking, ‘Am I really going to do this?’ … There’s a lot of vulnerability that comes with being alone with the audience. As an actor, you become used to relying on fellow actors, but in a one-man show, you don’t have that; you have very little to go on. 
What has been the most rewarding thing?
There are several moments in the play where Truman is at a very heightened emotional state, and the audience is holding its breath, then he says something that has everyone bursting into laughter. By that same token, there are moments when everyone is laughing, then Truman gets to a part in a story, and everyone gasps. The audience enters into a friendship with him, and they become his only confidants. It’s a very intimate relationship, more than in most plays. 

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