New York Drama Critics' Choices Are All Actors Passing as Playwrights

PlayBlog   New York Drama Critics' Choices Are All Actors Passing as Playwrights
Horton Foote, Geoffrey Nauffts and Bruce Norris have something else in common other than the fact that they were the only playwrights the New York Drama Critics deemed worthy of their 2009-2010 awards: All three of them began as actors.

Nauffts, who finished second with his Next Fall, and Norris, who came in third with his Clybourne Park, are both receding from the limelight into full-time playwriting. Nauffts is doing this in double-time as artistic director of Naked Angels and as a regular script contributor to television's "Brothers & Sisters" series.

The late Foote, who finished first for his last hurrah (a nine-hour honor-thy-father cavalcade called The Orphans' Home Cycle, which ends its Off-Broadway run at the Signature Theatre May 8 and moves to Broadway next fall), also started out an actor, studying at the Pasadena Playhouse (Class of Victor Jory and Onslow Stevens) and struggled eight years on both coasts without particular distinction or success.

Just to remain a player in New York, he co-founded with Jean Stapleton and Mildred Dunnock the American Actors Company in 1938. "Because we were from different parts of the country, we would do improvisations to help each other understand our sections, and I was always doing Texas," he recalled. "I never thought of being a playwright until our choreographer, Agnes DeMille, said to me one day that I should consider it. I said, 'Well, how do I do that?' She said, 'Write about what you know.'"

Seventy-two years later Horton Foote is being honored posthumously for writing about what he knows. It will be a short ceremony May 10 at the Algonquin. The critics organization this year opted not to honor a Best Musical or Best Foreign Play.

— Harry Haun

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