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Horton Foote Back on Broadway

December 6, 2008 |  6:00 am


Having a conversation with Horton Foote is bit like taking a stroll down one of the major boulevards of American theater history. I was fortunate enough to spend some time with the 92-year-old playwright before a matinee preview performance of "Dividing the Estate," one of the most acclaimed dramas on Broadway this fall.  And not surprisingly, the interview  was replete with illustrious names from the theatrical past --Agnes de Mille, Kim Stanley, Geraldine Page, Stark Young, Pauline Lord. 

But the name that might mean the most to Foote is that of his daughter Hallie, an accomplished actress who has been drawing some of the best reviews of her career for her portrayal of the outrageous Mary Jo, the daughter who makes no bones about wanting her family's estate to be divided up to rescue all insolvent parties, including her husband and financially insatiable daughters.  (This 1989 play, which premiered off-Broadway last year courtesy of Primary Stages, is being produced by Lincoln Center Theater at a time when the recessionary issues could hardly be more relevant.)   

Foote won't take credit for Hallie's choice of professions, but he does recall a phone call in which she told him, "Daddy, I know I'll never be happy unless I try acting."

What's it like for him to see his daughter incarnate with such bold comic flair this unabashedly grasping and hilariously uncensoring character? "Like watching Geraldine [Page] or Kim [Stanley]," Foote says with tender pride.   

Our interview completed, he adds, "Go backstage after the show today, and tell my daughter what you thought of her performance."

Mission accomplished.  "Bravos" are always a delight to deliver.

--Charles McNulty   

Photo: Horton Foote at the Booth Theatre on Broadway before a matinee of his play "Dividing the Estate." Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times