William Converse Roberts, Peri Gilpin, Hallie Foote, Shirley Knight and Dan Butler have been among the TV and stage stars taking part in The Orphans' Home Cycle, a reading of all nine plays in Horton Foote's epic look at a small Texas town. Presented by The Lost World company at Whittier College (20 minutes outside Los Angeles), the readings have been following a one-play-per-month schedule.
The readings began Sept. 29 with Roots in a Parched Ground and continued Oct. 27 with Convicts, Nov. 17 with Lily Dale, Dec. 8 with The Widow Claire, Jan. 26, with Courtship (starring Gilpin), Feb. 23 with Valentine’s Day, March 29 with 1918 and April 26 with William Converse Roberts in Cousins.
Concluding the series, May 24, is The Death of Papa, starring Fred Bergerson, Crystal Brian, Scott Conte, Nancy Davis, Mary Finan, Ken Fisher, Keli Fulton, Aaron Mark Henry, Judith Montgomery, Melissa Weber, Time Winters and Sarah Zinsser.
Jean Stapleton, Andrew McCarthy, Hallie Foote and Dana Ivey starred in a Hartford Stage mounting of the drama last spring.
According to spokesperson Chris Van Ness, The Lost World has already staged such Foote plays as Laura Dennis and The Habitation of Dragons, and the company intends to do a full production of a world premiere, The Day Emily Married, in summer 2000. Author Foote received Academy Awards for Best Screenplay for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Tender Mercies." Once represented by an entire season at New York's Signature, Foote will contribute The Last of the Thortons, the story of Alberta Thorton, the last surviving member of a powerful clan, to that theatre's 2000 retrospective of the playwrights represented in its last ten seasons. He also recently directed daughter Daisy Foote's When They Speak of Rita, currently at New York's Primary Stages Theatre.
The Orphans' Home Cycle centers around Harrison, a small Texas town. With the recent publication of Foote's reminiscences, "Farewell: A Memoir of a Texas Childhood," readers can find a clear view into Wharton, the real small Texas town that helped form the writer once called the "Chekhov of the small town."
For tickets and information on the Orphans' Home Cycle, which is partially sponsored by Edison International's Arts for the Community Iniative, call (562) 907 4203.
-- By David Lefkowitz