Visiting town with her siblings for the opening of North Texas’ Horton Foote Festival, Hallie Foote took time to talk with us about growing up in her father’s art. Foote is the leading interpreter of Horton Foote’s plays — having won two Drama Desk Awards, a Tony nomination and a Lucille Lortel Award for her performances.
Like her other siblings, Hallie didn’t grow up in Wharton, outside of Houston, where her father grew up and set most of his plays. When they were children, Horton Foote also was in a three-decade-long slump — because New York theaters pretty much ignored his work until his second screenwriting Oscar for Tender Mercies in 1984.
So Horton Foote wasn’t The Famous Author then and Wharton was just a welcoming small town they visited. But as she explains, in portraying her grandmother and great-grandmother onstage, Hallie had the opportunity to research their lives, learning more about her family. The real world of Wharton and the stage world of Harrison (as it’s called in the plays) are clearly different, she says, although she also recalls that one Whartonite told her that the family — the one troubled by oil money and inheritance in Dividing the Estate? That was pretty much half of Wharton.
And half of the rest of the state as well — together, Foote’s plays are a chronicle of smalltown Texas history from plantation to petroleum. We talk with Hallie about playing family members onstage, what acting advice did her father give her and how did his writing change.
The Dallas Theater Center opens Dividing the Estate tonight, Stage West has already opened Talking Pictures, and the Horton Foote Festival continues through May. Here’s the festival lineup and here’s the official website.