an active playwright for over fifty years, Horton Foote
has enriched American dramatic literature with his unique
style and his painfully honest examination of the human
condition. The sense of home, and belonging, are central
themes in all his works, as he continually explores why
some human spirits are able to survive tragedies, while
others are utterly destroyed.
in Wharton, Texas, which is known as Harrison in his plays,
Foote received a "calling" to be an actor at age ten,
and by the time he finished high school, he had convinced
his parents to send him to a theatre school. Following
two years of training in California, he arrived in New
York, where he enrolled in Tamara Daykarkhanova's Theatre
School which featured Michael Chekhov's version of the
Moscow Art Theatre's Second Studio technique. Thus the
playwright that would come to be known as the "American
Chekhov," or the "rural Chekhov" according to Robert Duvall,
does indeed have a traceable link to the Russian Master.
With instructors Vera Solovyova, Andrius Jilinsky, Mary
Hunter, and other aspiring actors, Foote formed the American
Actors' Company. After securing some minor acting credits,
Foote decided that writing plays was one way to ensure
that he would have decent roles. By the time his Only
the Heart reached Broadway in 1944, it was clear that
his writing was much more highly regarded than his acting.
Foote continued writing throughout the forties, producing
several experimental works which included dance, as well
as writing for television series which paid the bills.
In the early fifties, Foote, together with Paddy Chayevsky
and Rod Serling, ushered in the "Golden Age" of television
drama. Foote also enjoyed success on Broadway, with The Chase, The Trip to Bountiful with Lillian Gish, and The Traveling Lady with Kim Stanley.
As the demand for television drama abated, Foote turned to
Hollywood, and he earned an Academy Award for his adaptation
of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. Baby
the Rain Must Fall, an adaptation of his own The
Traveling Lady, appeared soon thereafter, yet he soon
grew disillusioned with the Hollywood treatment of his
work (e.g. The Chase).
Foote retreated to New Hampshire, seemingly out of favor
with both Broadway and Hollywood. It was during the seventies
that Foote created his nine-play Orphans' Home Cycle,
which is a semi-autobiographical look at his family. To
date, five of the nine plays have been filmed; the most
recent was the Showtime production of Lily Dale
in 1997, starring Mary Stuart Masterson, Stockard Channing,
Sam Shepard, and Jean Stapleton. The Widow Claire
is next, produced by Foote's daughter Hallie, a talented
actress who is widely considered the finest interpreter
of her father's work.
Throughout the eighties, Foote remained active, producing
a wide variety of work, ranging from the hilarious Blind
Date to the heartbreaking The Roads to Home
and The Habitation of Dragons. As the playwright-in-residence
at New York's Signature Theatre for the 1994-1995 season,
Foote produced Talking
Pictures, Night Seasons, The
Young Man From Atlanta, and Laura Dennis.
While all were critically acclaimed, Young Man
went on to win the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and arrived
on Broadway in 1997 starring Rip Torn and Shirley Knight.
The year 1998 saw the premieres of Vernon Early
at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and A Coffin in
Egypt at the Bay Street Theatre in Sag Harbor. The
first installment of Foote's autobiography, Farewell,
appeared in 1999. Foote directed his daughter Daisy's
When They Speak of Rita (featuring Hallie) for
Primary Stages in New York in June 2000, and then saw
the World Premiere of his The
Last of the Thorntons at New York's Signature
Theatre the following December. The Carpetbagger's
Children, premiered at Houston's Alley Theatre
in June 2001, and after stops at the Guthrie Theatre and
the Hartford Stage, arrived at Lincoln Center in Manhattan
in the Spring of 2002. The second installment of Foote's
autobiography, Beginnings, was published in October
2001. The fifty year anniversary of Bountiful was celebrated with a production featuring Hallie Foote as Jessie Mae at both Hartford Stage and the Alley Theatre in 2003. In 2003 the 1955 play The Day Emily Married finally reached New York in a production at Primary Stages that entranced the critics. The play was initially staged by the QTC Co-Founders in 1997 when Mr. Foote granted a non-professional production at Silver Spring Stage.
Foote brought The Trip to Bountiful back to the stage in 2005 to great acclaim, initially at the Signature Theatre; a transfer to Broadway was seriously considered, but a proper venue was not available at that time. His dream of a Broadway success, inexplicably absent from his resume, was finally realized when his comedy Dividing the Estate moved from Primary Stages to the Booth Theater in 2008. Horton Foote passed away in Hartford, Connecticut in March, 2009, while putting the final touches on an adapted version of his 9-play Orphans' Home Cycle. This ambitious effort, performed in three 3-play segments, received the highest critical acclaim both at Hartford Stage and Signature Theatre.
Horton Foote passed away on March 4th, 2009. His work, and spirit, will always be a part of the Quotidian Theatre.