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 are following a one-play-per-month schedule, with the cycle to be completed May 2000.
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 and March 29 with 1918.
Next up in the cycle is Cousins (April 26), which features Converse Roberts -- who has appeared in several of the Whittier readings -- Larry Arancio, Joan Chodorow, Dennis Cockrum, Edwin Craig, Stephanie Dunnam, Jason George (TV’s “Sunset Beach”), Dave Hanson, Art Kempf, Roxie Lee, Judith Montgomery, Neil Switzer, Melissa Weber and Sarah Zinsser. Crystal Brian directs.
Concluding the series, May 24, will be The Death of Papa
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.
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