Presidents Day weekend at Key West’s Harry S. Truman Little White House features “Truman” himself, depicted in a one-man play by the former president’s grandson, actor and author Clifton Truman Daniel.
Performances of “Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!” highlight weekend activities at Florida’s only presidential museum, the Key West property where Truman spent 11 working vacations that totaled nearly six months of his 1945-53 administration.
The first of two plays was staged late Friday afternoon. An encore performance is set for late Saturday afternoon.
“The first time Grandpa came down here, it recharged him,” said Daniel, who is reportedly the first direct descendant to portray a U.S. president onstage. “After a few days here, he had fallen so much in love with it that my grandfather wrote to my grandmother, ‘I have a good mind to move the government to Key West and just stay’.”
An accurate and sometime humorous exploration of Truman’s life and presidency, the production begins with “Harry” arriving on the Little White House grounds in an authentic limousine used by America’s 33rd president.
Striding up to an outdoor stage, wearing the casual clothes he preferred in Key West, he addresses the audience on topics including a president’s role and duty to the people, war concerns, his predecessors in office and even the “Dewey Defeats Truman” newspaper headline that incorrectly proclaimed his election loss in 1948.
As well as relaxing, Harry Truman used his time in Key West to consider policy decisions and conduct meetings away from the pressures of Washington, D.C.
“How much fun can it be to do ‘Give ‘Em Hell, Harry!’ on the grounds of the Truman Little White House in Key West?” asked Daniel. “This place helped him unwind, relax, helped him recharge, helped him do the job that he had to do as president — so to be able to play him in his own backyard is just a lot of fun.”
Presented by the not-for-profit Key West Harry S. Truman Foundation, the weekend’s events conclude Monday with a free-admission Presidents Day picnic on the Little White House grounds.