Actress Peri Gilpin, Roz from NBC's "Frasier," will perform the title role in a staged reading of a rare Horton Foote play, The Day Emily Married, Nov. 11 in Whittier, CA.
Directed by Crystal Brian, artistic director of The Lost World, The Day Emily Married was written in the late 1960s but has never had a professional staging, the director said. A Maryland amateur troupe staged it several years ago. The play was published recently by Smith & Kraus as part of a Foote collection.
The cast for the 7 PM free ("donation requested") reading at the Robinson Theatre in the Shannon Center for the Performing Arts includes familiar Los Angeles performers Stephanie Dunnam, Karen Kondazian, Cameron Watson, Nancy Davis, William Dennis Hunt, Melissa Weber and Catherine Telford.
Brian said the play is a comic drama about an only-child, Emily (played by Gilpin), whose failed first marriage was arranged by her father. When she marries again, family business and the father's influence have striking consequences in Emily's life. The work is set in classic Foote milieu: Small-town Texas in the early-to-mid-20th-century.
The Shannon Center is on the Whittier College campus at the corner of Painter and Philadelphia Streets in Whittier. A limited number of tickets are available for a suggested donation of $10.00 (or more) per seat. For reservations, call the Shannon Center box office at (562) 907-4203. *
Brian, who is penning a biography of the prolific and still-writing 83 year-old Texas playwright, said she's hoping to give the play a full, professional world premiere in the summer of 1999. Brian came across the play among Foote's archive papers at Southern Methodist University. Lost World's readings and productions are held at the Shannon Center for the Performing Arts, on the campus of Whittier College.
"It's not a completely unknown play," Brian told Playbill On-Line Oct. 28. "Once his archives were opened people got their hands on it and read it, but it has never been staged. He doesn't have that many plays that haven't been produced, so it was exciting to find it -- yes, it's a little bit like striking gold."
Brian said The Day Emily Married was a play Foote's late wife enjoyed."I read letters he and his wife had written about the play," said Brian, who, like Foote, is a Texas native.
Foote is known for his nine-play "Orphans' Home Cycle," a fictionalized account of his parents' relationship 1902-28, and for screenplays of "To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Tender Mercies," among others. Foote's 1995 Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Young Man From Atlanta, used some characters from earlier plays. The teleplay "The Trip to Bountiful" was made into a film starring Geraldine Page, who won an Oscar for her performance.
In 1995, New York's Signature Theatre devoted its season to the works of Wharton, TX., native Foote.
Crystal Brian's Lost World company was founded in 1994 as an Equity waiver troupe devoted to Foote's work, but the scope of programming has since grown. Naomi Wallace's One Flea Spare, this past summer, was the first Equity SPT (small professional theatre) staging by The Lost World. The name of the company is based on a poem by Randall Jarrell, whose lines are significant to Foote's plays. The company is devoted to world premieres or West Coast premieres, said Brian.
The Day Emily Married is the second in a 1998-99 series of new play readings dubbed "New Plays for New Audiences" at the Robinson Theatre in the Shannon Center. The Lost World produces its full stagings during the summer. The Emily reading is a fundraising benefit for the Lost World's summer production series.
-- By Kenneth Jones