Two Theaters to Produce Nine-Play Cycle by Foote

Posted on March 6, 2009. Filed under: Foote Horton |

By PATRICK HEALY, Published: January 21, 2009

Signature Theater Company in Manhattan and Hartford Stage in Connecticut are teaming up to produce the world premiere of a nine-play cycle by the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Horton Foote, performed in repertory over eight months.

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Horton Foote in 2006.

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Times Topics: Signature Theater CompanyHorton Foote

Mr. Foote, who is 92 and was most recently represented on Broadway with “Dividing the Estate,” said in a telephone interview on Wednesday that he had been working for months to adapt the nine plays — known collectively as “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” — into a “relatively tight” nine hours of theater.

“While I don’t want to lose too much from the original nine plays, I’m also well aware that I can’t ask people to sit there for 15 hours,” he added.

Mr. Foote’s adaptation of “Orphans’ Home” will be structured and performed in three parts. They will play in repertory and, at times, as daylong marathons.

The nine plays, including “1918” and “The Widow Claire,” were mostly written in the 1970s though often first produced later. They trace the life of Horace Robedaux, who is abandoned by his mother after his father’s death, and his experiences over two decades that encompass World War I and the flu epidemic of 1918. Horace is based on Mr. Foote’s father.

James Houghton, artistic director of Signature, which typically devotes its seasons to a single author (including Mr. Foote in 1994-95), said he pursued the “Orphans’ Home” project partly because he had a hole in 2009-10, since Suzan-Lori Parks had become too busy to complete a new play in time. The season devoted to her work has been postponed. A new play by Ms. Parks will make its debut at the Public Theater in June as part of the Public LAB series.

Mr. Houghton and Michael Wilson, who will direct the Foote cycle and is the artistic director of Hartford Stage, said in interviews on Wednesday that the production would cost several million dollars, but they added that final budgets, as well as casting decisions, had not been set. Hallie Foote, the playwright’s daughter who has won acclaim as an actor in many of his plays, is expected to be involved.

Mr. Wilson is the director of the Broadway production of “Dividing the Estate,” which is opening in May at Hartford Stage. The “Orphans’ Home” plays are scheduled to run from late August to mid-October 2009 at Hartford Stage and from late October to mid-April 2010 at Signature.

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