Dividing The Estate
Directed by Susan E. Evans
Like most of Horton Foote’s plays, Dividing the Estate takes place in and around the fictional small town of Harrison, Texas, a stand-in for the playwright’s hometown of Wharton, about 50 miles southwest of Houston and 30 miles from the Gulf Coast. Set in 1987, this play is no period piece but almost palpably relevant: the real estate market is in the dumps, jobs are vanishing, home foreclosures are rampant, businesses are going belly-up, and the farm and oil industries are struggling.
Sound familiar?Dividing the Estate is an apt opener for our “Family Portraits” season. Three generations of the Gordon clan square off, and confront their past, as they prepare for a precarious financial future. But fair warning -- you might find yourself reminded of someone you know in your own family …
Horton Foote (1916-2009), author of more than 60 plays and films, left a rich legacy as one of America’s foremost storytellers. After studying acting at the Pasadena Playhouse he journeyed to New York hoping to be a Broadway star. The choreographer Agnes de Mille saw an improvisation he wrote based on his hometown and asked him if he ever considered writing. He asked, “what on earth would I write about?” and she answered, “write what you know about.”
Foote’s first play was produced off-Broadway in 1941, and by the late 1940s he started to write for the new medium of television for the Gabby Hayes show and Playhouse 90. During his long career, Foote was the recipient of numerous awards, including two Oscars, in 1962 for his best screenplay adaptation of Harper Lee’s novel for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and in 1983 for best original screenplay for “Tender Mercies,” the Pulitzer prize in 1995 for The Young Man From Atlanta, and the National Medal of Arts Award in 2000. At the time of his death aged 92 in 2009, he was still hard at work, putting final touches on adapting his nine-play Orphans’ Home Cycle into a three-part production staged in 2009-2010 by the Hartford Stage Company and the Signature Theater in New York.
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