Truman Capote was an internationally acclaimed writer, notorious name dropper and social climber.
The Alabama transplant infiltrated the glitzy Park Avenue and Hollywood social scenes. The rich and famous adored him until he allowed Esquire magazine to publish a chapter from a semi-fictionalized novel that exposed the deepest and darkest secrets of his pals.
Charles Baran-Bookman portrays “Tru” in Jay Presson Allen’s one man drama as Capote copes with the aftermath of that life-changing decision. The play opens April 14 at Empire Stage in Fort Lauderdale and runs through May 7. Baran-Bookman’s husband, lighting designer Kirk Bookman, is producing and Island City Stage’s Andy Rogow directs.
“Kirk and I have been working on the play for over a year and we are excited that our goal of bringing it to life is happening,” explained Baran-Bookman. “It is a wonderful play, wildly entertaining and full of interesting stories and facts [from] Capote’s extraordinary life. There are laughs for certain, but also moments of pathos as Capote’s life were marked by personal struggles.”
Set over the course of two evenings in December 1975 following the publication of the chapter “La Cote Basque” from the unfinished novel, “Answered Prayers,” Tru stews alone in his Manhattan apartment where – without his best friends Babe Paley and Nancy "Slim” Keith to entertain him – he struggles to maintain his dignity in the face of rejection.
Fighting to anesthetize himself with pills and booze, he reflects on his triumphs and recounts the events that led him from tiny Monroeville to the pinnacles of New York society.
Baran-Bookman remembers those days firsthand: “I grew up in Queens, then Manhattan in the ‘60s and ‘70s and Truman Capote was a figure who loomed large in the daily life of the city. For a gay teenager like myself, he was a symbol of success, what I could become if I applied myself. At that point in my life I was unaware of how troubled and unhappy he was. It all seemed so glamorous and I was attracted to that.”
To prepare for the role decades later, he did a deep dive into the life of the writer, reading and re-reading Capote’s short stories, letters and George Clarke’s definitive biography. Baran-Bookman also viewed the countless appearances Capote made on talk shows in the ‘70s and ‘80s, which were all posted on YouTube.
“As an actor, I then had to tap into the similarities you have with the person you are playing,” he added. “What I related to mainly was his struggles as a gay man yearning to be accepted.”
Baran-Bookman said that the director also plays a critical role in the success of one-man shows such as “Tru,” with an unbiased perspective and citing only one word for Rogow’s leadership, “amazing.”
Even for audiences who may be familiar with Capote’s story, Baran-Bookman hopes they will take away a couple of lessons.
“The first thing that comes to my mind is that success does not equal happiness. The second, and even more important one for me, is to love yourself unconditionally. Accept who you are and embrace it, warts and all,” Baran-Bookman concluded. “We are all special and beautiful in our own way. If only Truman had realized this, we would have enjoyed his amazing wit and spirit for many more years than we did.”
Charles Baran-Bookman stars as Truman Capote in “Tru,” playing April 14 – May 7 at Empire Stage, 1140 N. Flagler Dr. in Fort Lauderdale. Tickets are $35 at EmpireStage.com.