Peri Gilpin, Shirley Knight and Dan Butler are 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, and Dec. 8 with The Widow Claire. Next up, Jan. 26, is Courtship with Cameron Watson, Brian Colburn, Susan Dexter, Sarah Hunley, William Dennis Hunt, Amy Landers, Mary Van Ardsdel and "Frasier" star Gilpin. After the show, Edison International's Arts for the Community Initiative will present The Lost World with a $25,000 grant.
Upcoming plays in the cycle are:
• Feb. 23, 2000: Valentine's Day
• March 29, 2000: 1918
• April 26, 2000: Cousins
• May 24, 2000: The Death of Papa
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' 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 call (562) 907 4203.
-- By David Lefkowitz