Robin Voiers Brings Her Special Touch to A Christmas Memory

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By Judie Holcomb-Pack

Like The Little Train that Could, you never know what can happen when you speak these four little words: “I think I can.”

Robin Voiers has been performing in “A Christmas Memory,” based on a short story by Truman Capote, for over 30 years. It all started when she was asked if she could come up with a new Christmas play for Reynolda House and she answered, “I think I can.”

For several years Robin had performed in plays at Reynolda House. In 1986 Marjorie Northup, who coordinated programs at Reynolda House Museum of American Art, asked her, “What can you do for Christmas?” and Robin mentioned a short story by Truman Capote that she thought would make a beautiful production. Marjorie asked, “Do you think you could adapt it into a play?” and Robin answered, “I think I can.” The story is based on the years that Capote lived in Alabama with three elderly relatives, including his distant cousin. His special friendship with “Miss Sook” forever impacted his life.

The first two years Robin performed “A Christmas Memory” at Reynolda House with a young man who played the part of Buddy. By the third year, the young man was no longer available and Marjorie asked Robin if she could re-write the play to be a one-woman show. Again, Robin answered, “I think I can.”

And she did … and has been performing “A Christmas Memory” as a one-woman play for 29 years. It has become a much anticipated Christmas tradition with the only performance usually a sell-out. The popularity of the play, as well as the short story it was based on, has endured through the years. The story takes place during the Depression and is about the special relationship between distant cousin Miss Sook and Buddy. Miss Sook and Buddy worked year ’round to save up a little change to be able to make fruit cakes, which they gave away to many people, from the local knife-grinder to President Roosevelt. The play is built on simple things they could do together, such as flying a kite or making each other a small Christmas gift. At the end of the play, Buddy is sent away to military school and Miss Sook states simply, but with a sense of premonition, “This is our last Christmas together.”

As Robin began working on this play, she applied for and received a grant to present it to ten schools. She loved the affect the play had on students, from their initial “ho, hum” response to a play set in the Depression, to the end where students would come up to her to tell her about how it reminded them of their own relationships with grandparents and others.

Robin accumulated the props she uses in the play and has kept them year after year. Each November when she pulls out her script and props, she starts getting excited. Every time she performs “A Christmas Memory,” there is always something that makes it different for her. It could be a different way of saying a line, or a slight change in a movement, or the way she looks directly to the audience. Even though she has been performing this part for over 30 years, each year she feels freshness about it.

Acting wasn’t Robin”s first love. She graduated from Florida State University with degrees in English and Dance. She studied with Martha Graham, among others, and danced with the 13th American Dance Festival at Conn College. She taught dance at the University of Georgia and the University of Maryland. When her first husband was stationed at Fort Bragg, she loved to watch rehearsals at the Fort Bragg Playhouse. She “eased into acting,” performing at the Playhouse in such productions as Music Man and Damn Yankees. Her acting career has grown over the years and she has performed in many regional theatres and travelled with her one-woman shows: “Belle of Amherst,” “Zelda,” “Isadora,” as well as “A Christmas Memory.”

But “A Christmas Memory” will always have a special place in her heart. “It makes you appreciate those around you and the Christmas memories they have made for you.”

A Christmas Memory will be presented on December 17 at 4 p.m. at Reynolda House. Call 336-758-5150 for ticket information.

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