Is There Life After Foote's The Death of Papa?

PlayBlog   Is There Life After Foote's The Death of Papa?
Liz McCann and Jerry Frankel were in the opening wave of producers checking out Parts I and II of Horton Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle the first time the plays were done back-to-back at the Signature Theatre Company, fueling the notion Orphans may have a home on Broadway when it ends its Off-Broadway gig March 28.

If so, this could give Foote a clean shot at his overdue Tony — and a chance to equal Alfred Uhry's triple-crown achievement of a Pulitzer Prize, an Oscar and a Tony.

Meanwhile, the Cycle keeps spinning Off-Broadway, alternating Part I and Part II, then doubling up with both installments on Wednesdays and Saturdays. And, after the first of the year, director Michael Wilson will add Part III to the mix.

The cast of 22, playing 67 different characters, will then address the concluding three one-hour plays in the trilogy: 1918, Cousins and The Death of Papa. The last two opuses, done regionally, will be new to New York.

Shortly before his death last March 4 at the age of 92, Foote completed a two-year project of whittling down the nine full-length plays comprising his Cycle into nine individual just-under-an-hour acts, which could be presented all in one day.

Indeed, Signature has set three marathon days (Feb. 6, Feb. 27 and March 6) where all three can be seen in a single day: "Part One — The Story of a Childhood" at 11 AM, "Part Two — The Story of a Marriage" at 3 PM and "Part Three — The Story of a Family." The one character who travels through all nine of the plays is a facsimile of Foote's own father, here renamed Horace Robedaux.

So, afterThe Death of Papa, is that all he wrote? His daughter, Hallie Foote, who appears in seven of the nine plays, says not: "He started a play called The Tax Assessor while he was editing the Cycle, but he never finished it."

"There are plays that haven't been done," says director Wilson. Because Foote was fearful of offending the real-life prototypes of his characters with certain home truths, there is a stack of trunk plays waiting to be executed when they die off.

"There are also some plays that had the great fortune to develop regionally that have never made it to New York," notes Wilson. Cases in point: Getting Frankie Married — and Afterwards, Vernon Early and In a Coffin in Egypt. "There are a lot of titles that have yet to see the big light of day in New York."

— Harry Haun

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