It's the summer of 1929, and Myra Tolliver, a divorced woman, is struggling to raise her teenage son in the small town of Harrison, Texas. It's not been easy for her, but she's managed to get by. But now, everything around her is starting to change, in Horton Foote's Talking Pictures, beginning its run at Stage West on Thursday, March 10, as part of the area-wide Foote Festival.
Myra ekes out a living by playing piano in one of the state's last silent picture houses, and that livelihood is being threatened by the advent of the talkies. Her son Pete is feeling stifled by his life in Harrison-his father lives in a large house in Houston with his new wife and two sons, and he wants to go live with them. The Jackson family, from whom Myra rents living space, may have to move to another town due to issues with the husband's job. And Myra's would-be suitor, Willis, has been unable to afford a divorce from the wife who abandoned him some five years earlier. And yet, despite circumstances which could easily prompt despair and self-pity, Myra and the people around her have a core of resilience (and humor) which allow them not only to survive, but to feel hopeful.
Foote has managed a difficult task in his plays-giving us a clear view of a bygone era, without making it overly sentimental or nostalgic. Vincent Canby, reviewing for the New York Times in 1994, said "The Foote plays are cut so close to the bone of reality, they're so uncompromising and clear-eyed in their quotidian concerns, that there's nothing much to date them except the times in which they are set... [Foote's] unwillingness to italicize emotions, or to underscore the important moments in any obvious way, is also why the play has the impact it does. It creeps up and dazzles you with moments of extraordinary pathos that alternate with those of uproarious comedy..."
Albert Horton Foote, Jr. was born March 16, 1916, in Wharton, Texas. A playwright and screenwriter, he is perhaps best known for his screenplay for the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird, for the films The Trip to Bountiful and Tender Mercies, and his notable live television dramas during the Golden Age of Television. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1995 for his play The Young Man from Atlanta. In 1995, Foote was the inaugural recipient of the Austin Film Festival's Distinguished Screenwriter Award. In addition, during his lifetime he was awarded two Academy Awards, one Emmy, and the National Medal of Arts. His plays include The Last of the Thorntons, Night Seasons, Laura Dennis, Vernon Early, The Roads to Home, The Carpetbagger's Children, The Day Emily Married, The Chase, Tomorrow, The Habitation of Dragons, The Traveling Lady, and Dividing the Estate. He died March 4, 2009, just ten days short of his 93rd birthday.
The Foote Festival is slated to run from March 14, 201 through May 1, 2011, during which time, the participating organizations will be presenting Foote's plays, screening film adaptations of his work, and presenting insights into his life through readings, and other related events. More information on the festival can be found at www.footefestival.com.
Director Jim Covault has assembled a terrific group of eleven for his cast. Myra will be played by Dana Schultes, last seen at Stage West in RolePlay, with Richland High School sophomore Dillon Vineyard as her son Pete. Playing Myra's ex-husband Gerard will be Brian Mathis, whose recent credits include Daddy Warbucks in Casa Manana's Annie. Amber Devlin, applauded for her role as Margrethe in Stage West's Copenhagen, will play Mrs. Jackson, with Michael Corolla, who appeared in Stage West's The 39 Steps, as MR. Jackson. Their daughters Vesta and Katie Bell will be played, respectively, by Meg Bauman, remembered as Girleen in The Lonesome West at Stage West, and Mikaela Krantz, whose credits include Lucy in Tiny Disasters at the Guthrie Theatre. Thomas Ward, who was seen as Smash in the New York premiere of The Unseen, will play would-be suitor Willis, with Jessica Cavanagh, who played Pam in the WaterTower production of The Full Monty, as the troublesome Gladys. The brutish Ashenback will be played by Jeff McGee, just seen as Mr. Weiss in the Lyric Stage production of Flora, the Red Menace. And newcomer Julian Gonzales will play Estaquio.
The set is designed by Jim Covault, with Lighting Design by Michael O'Brien. Costumes will be by Michael Robinson, with props and set decor by Lynn Lovett.
Talking Pictures will preview Thursday, March 10 at 7:30 and Friday, March 11 at 8:00, and will run through Sunday, April 3. Performance times will be Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, with Sunday matinees at 3:00. The opening night reception will be Saturday, January 15 following the play. Ticket prices range from $26 to $30, with discounts for students and seniors. Preview tickets are priced at only $15. Pay What You Can performances will be Sunday, March 13 and Thursday, March 17. Food service is available 90 minutes prior to performances (reservations are generally necessary), and all Friday nights after March 11 will feature the $35 Prix Fixe Special. Reservations and information are available through the Box Office (817-784-9378), or on the website, www.stagewest.org.
Photo Credit: Buddy Myers
Dana Schultes, Dillon Vineyard
Dillon Vineyard, Thomas Ward
Julian Gonzales, Amber Devlin
Dana Schultes, Thomas Ward