The stars of the upcoming Night Seasons, Jane Squier Bruns (Josie Weems) and John Decker (Mr. Weems), are both QTC acting company members who have performed in numerous Horton Foote plays at QTC over almost 20 years. Each was posed the following questions:
What was your favorite role in a play by Horton Foote?
Jane Squier Bruns:
“My favorite role in a Horton Foote play, which is among my favorites of all the roles I’ve ever played, is Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful. It’s easy to see why this is probably Foote’s most beloved and well-known play and Carrie his most beloved and well-known character. She is a simple, old woman whose life has been quite ordinary and not very eventful or happy. She loves her son and accepts her difficult daughter-in-law and the fact that she must live with them in a very modest and cramped apartment. Her only purpose becomes returning to the home where she lived when she was young. Her incredibly touching determination and faith that she will get there are so moving, and even when she finds that Bountiful no longer exists, her acceptance is simple and beautiful. I loved being able to speak Mr. Foote’s wonderful dialogue and feel that I truly knew Carrie.”
“My favorite role in a Horton Foote play was Bobby Pate in Valentine’s Day, which we performed here at Quotidian a number of years ago. Bobby is a sweet, sad, gentlemanly, middle-aged, alcoholic, bachelor resident of the boarding house in which the play is set. Through his interactions with the other residents, and often through the poetic haze of his own inebriation, we learn of the many disappointments in his life that have been both the cause and the result of his drinking problems. Although he is something of a fringe character in the play, Foote’s dialogue provides him with such a deep, rich back story that he is a delight to perform. His quiet anguish throughout the play feels achingly real, and his progressive decline is heartbreaking to watch.”
What is the secret to performing Horton Foote’s words authentically?
“The first and most obvious ‘secret’ is no secret at all but a technical tool for the actor to use. That is using the correct accent for the location, which is East Texas in most of Foote’s plays. It’s not a Deep Southern accent (as, say, Georgia is), nor a hard Western Texas one, but something of a mix of those. Mr. Foote’s dialogue is usually written in the rhythm of East Texas and frequently includes words or phrases that are familiar there. For example, Josie almost always uses the word “son” when she addresses any young man. I think that that rhythm helps the actor to deliver the lines more authentically.”
“In spite of its apparent simplicity, or perhaps because of it, I believe that Horton Foote’s dialogue has a poetic, almost musical feel to it. For me, the secret to performing his words authentically is in exploring those embedded, poetic rhythms and, hopefully, unlocking that underlying musicality.”
How do you approach playing your roles in Night Seasons?
“It’s all in the script that the playwright has given you. He has created this character, and it’s now my responsibility to literally become her. So learning not just the words but creating a whole dimensional person from the story that is in the script is my task. I also often think of real people I’ve known who maybe had similar personality or behavioral traits as my character. Sometimes, of course, that is myself – what in her do I recognize in me? In this case, I don’t feel that similar to Josie, but I have certainly known people that she reminds me of.”
“In spite of being the nominal head of the family, Mr. Weems himself doesn’t have an awful lot to say in the play, as he, like the rest of his family, is dominated by his wife, Josie. So, my approach to getting into the role of Mr. Weems is to observe what the other characters in the play have to say about him, to focus on the ways in which the other characters in the play interact with him, and to concentrate on creating believable relationships with each of those other, individual characters in the play.”
QTC looks forward to hosting you at our upcoming production of Horton Foote’s Night Seasons!
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Photos by Steve LaRocque