A Bus Ride to the Past: Trip to Bountiful Opens in NYC Dec. 4

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04 Dec 2005

You can go home, again — but it's going to be painful. That's a lesson learned in Horton Foote's plaintive The Trip to Bountiful, about an aged Texas mama who returns to the now- dilapidated home where she raised her family decades before.



White-haired Tony Award nominee Lois Smith plays Carrie Watts, who board a bus bound for her past, in the Signature Theatre Company production that opens Off-Broadway Dec. 4.

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Thanks to a leadership gift from Time Warner, Inc., all seats at all Signature performances of the plaintive Horton Foote play are $15. Previews began Nov. 15.

Signature Theatre Company, under the direction of founding artistic director James Houghton and executive director Kathryn M. Lipuma, opens its 15th anniversary season with the staging, directed by Harris Yulin. Hallie Foote, the playwright's daughter, plays Carrie's salty daughter-in-law Jessie Mae Watts.

Performances continue to Jan. 8, 2006.

Smith was a Tony Award nominee for Buried Child and The Grapes of Wrath.

Here's how Signature bills the play, which is also a beloved motion picture: "Carrie Watts longs to return to her childhood home of Bountiful, Texas, where she hasn't been in 30 years. Despite her failing health, she grows more determined to escape from the tiny Houston apartment she shares with her soft-spoken son and watchful daughter-in-law [Hallie Foote]. Finally she gets her chance to head homeward, and it is the journey of a lifetime."

The Bountiful cast also includes Devon Abner (The Young Man from Atlanta at Signature), Meghan Andrews (The Grapes of Wrath on Broadway), Gene Jones (Big River on Broadway), Sam Kitchin (Frozen on Broadway), Frank Girardeau (Night Seasons at Signature).

The designers are E. David Cosier (sets); Martin Pakledinaz (costumes); John McKernon (lights); and Fitz Patton (sound).

The Trip to Bountiful is part of the 15th Anniversary "Signature Series Season" that offers two works by playwrights who have been Signature Playwrights-in-Residence in the past, plus special events. Three more full productions will be added to the series in the future, making the celebration run 20 months.

Foote was Signature Theatre Company's 1994-95 Playwright-in-Residence. His plays produced during that season include Talking Pictures, Night Seasons, The Young Man from Atlanta and Laura Dennis; in the all-premiere Season, 2000-2001, his play The Last of the Thorntons was produced.

Has the $15 offer been embraced by audiences?

Some performances of Bountiful are already sold out but Signature specifically held back some tickets so they would be available throughout the run, a spokesperson told Playbill.com. Signature has "had a very strong response so far with subscriptions up from last year" and "single ticket sales are also up significantly" in the days leading up to the first preview.

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John Guare's Landscape of the Body follows The Trip to Bountiful, in spring 2006.

Foote's first play, Texas Town, was produced Off-Broadway in 1941. His other plays include The Chase, The Traveling Lady, Tomorrow, The Habitation of Dragons, The Orphans' Home Cycle, Roots in a Parched Ground, Convicts, Lily Dale, The Widow Claire, Courtship, Vernon Early, The Roads to Home, The Carpetbagger's Children and The Day Emily Married. He received Academy Awards for his screenplay adaptation of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" and his original screenplay, "Tender Mercies." Other screenplays include "Baby," "The Rain Must Fall," "Tomorrow," "Courtship," "On Valentine's Day," "1918," "Convicts," "The Trip to Bountiful," "Of Mice and Men" and "Lily Dale." He received the Pulitzer Prize for his play, The Young Man from Atlanta, which premiered at the Signature Theatre Company. It later transferred to Broadway and was nominated for the 1997 Tony Award for Best Play.

The original production of Bountiful opened on Broadway at Henry Miller's Theatre, Nov. 3, 1953. The production, which grew from an earlier teleplay, starred Lillian Gish in the lead role. The play was then adapted for the big screen for the 1985 film earning star Geraldine Page an Oscar for her performance.

As a director, Harris Yulin's theatre credits include The Prisoner's Song (EST), This Lime Tree Bower (Primary Stages), Don Juan in Hell (London, New York), Baba Goya, Winter Play (Second Stage), The Guardsman (Long Wharf) and Candida (Shaw Festival). As an actor, he has appeared on Broadway in Hedda Gabler, The Price, The Diary of Anne Frank, The Visit, A Lesson From Aloes and Watch on The Rhine.

Lois Smith's other Broadway credits include Time Out for Ginger, The Young and Beautiful, Blues for Mr. Charlie, and the original production of Orpheus Descending. Her film and television credits include "East of Eden," "Five Easy Pieces" (National Society of Film Critics Award), "Fried Green Tomatoes," "How to Make an American Quilt," "Twister," "Dead Man Walking," "Minority Report," "Frasier," "The Laramie Project" and "Iron Jawed Angels" (HBO).

Hallie Foote was the recipient of the 1994-1995 Drama Desk Award for Best Actress for her roles in the Horton Foote plays at Signature: Talking Pictures, Night Seasons and Laura Dennis. She received the 1993 OBIE Award for her performance in The Roads to Home (Lambs Theatre).

Peter Norton Space is at 555 W. 42nd Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues. The performance schedule is Tuesdays-Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM; and Sundays at 3 PM. For subscription and ticket information, call (212) 244-PLAY (7529).

Additional holiday performances will play Nov. 27 at 8 PM; Nov. 21 and Dec. 26 at 8 PM; and Dec. 14, 21, 28 at 3 PM.

There are no performances on Nov. 23-24 and Dec. 24-25. There will be a 3 PM matinee performance on Dec. 31.

Visit www.signaturetheatre.org.

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Signature Theatre Company was founded in 1991 by artistic director James Houghton and is the first theatre in the United States dedicated to season-long explorations of a single-living-playwright’s body of work. The company’s first nine seasons presented the works of Romulus Linney, Lee Blessing, Edward Albee, Horton Foote, Adrienne Kennedy, Sam Shepard, Arthur Miller, John Guare and Maria Irene Fornes. The 10th season featured world premieres by some of their writers. The 2002-03 season was dedicated to Lanford Wilson, the 2003-04 season to Bill Irwin, and the 2004-05 Season to Paula Vogel.