On March 10, the Three Rivers College Patrons of the Arts Society will present “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” a one-man show about the life and presidency of Harry Truman as told by Truman, Kansas City’s iconic native son who became the country’s 33rd head of state.
Tickets are $10 each and are on sale now at the Greater Poplar Bluff Area Chamber of Commerce, the Three Rivers business office, and online at www.trcc.edu/tinnin. Tickets can also be purchased at the door the night of the show, which will begin at 7 p.m. in the Tinnin Fine Arts Center.
In this two-act play, audience members will meet the plainspoken Missouri native who will take them on a lively walk through an important piece of American history. The personal and frequently humorous story of Truman’s life and his presidency – from his childhood in Independence, through his courtship and marriage to Bess, his political beginnings in Kansas City through his tumultuous years in the White House, from Boss Tom Pendergast to Winston Churchill, FDR, Ike, McCarthy and MacArthur — Truman shares and reenacts, in his own words, memorable conversations and famous confrontations.
“Informative and often very funny… a warm and fitting tribute to the man from Independence,” said a review in the Johnson County Sun.
Gary Neal Johnson, a professional actor for 36 years, portrays Harry Truman. Johnson first played the iconic president in 2005 at the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, where he is the Artistic Associate. Due to the popularity of the production, the theater repeated it during its 2006 season. This touring production with Johnson is not a Kansas City Repertory Theatre production, although it retains many elements from the original.
“He sells the illusion so effectively that by the second act you think you’re watching Truman, not the performer,” stated a Kansas City Star review.
Samuel Gallu wrote “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” in 1975, and dedicated it to Truman’s only child, his daughter Margaret Truman Daniel. The play premiered at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., on April 17 of that same year. In attendance were president and Mrs. Gerald Ford and members of the cabinet, the Congress, the Diplomatic Corps and other dignitaries. The actor James Whitmore portrayed Truman in that production, and also in the subsequent film for which he received an Oscar nomination for best actor.
“The message and the messenger are riveting…. “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” is two hours well spent,” stated a review by Infozine Magazine.
Johnson has been one of Kansas City’s most visible and versatile actors, appearing in more than 150 productions over 35 years on the city’s and the nation’s professional stages, most of those with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre. In San Francisco, Johnson was honored with a Dean Goodman Award for supporting actor for his portrayal of George Booth in the premiere of David Mamet’s adaptation of “The Voysey Inheritance” at the American Conservatory Theater. Notable roles at the Rep and elsewhere include nine seasons as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol,” Lear in “King Lear,” Gallimard in M. Butterfly, and the professor in “Oleanna.” Johnson performed the role of King Lear in the Robert Falls production at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. He makes his home in Overland Park, Kan., with his wife and two sons.
This performance of “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” is underwritten by the Missouri Arts Council.