LHHS fall show honors Texas playwright

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By Rachel Madison

The Liberty Hill High School theater department is bringing a lot more Texas to the stage with its fall show, “The Horton Foote Initiative”, which includes two one-act plays written by Texas playwright Horton Foote.

Chuck Harris, LHHS theater director, said he chose Foote’s two one-act plays, “The Midnight Caller” and “The Dancers,” for the fall show as a way to highlight Texas in the 1950s, which is the era both plays are set in.

Foote won the Pulitzer Prize for a play called “The Young Man from Atlanta,” as well as two Oscars for the screenplays for “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Tender Mercies.”

“We wanted to honor a Texas playwright and do something that was very Texas for our first show this year,” Harris said. “They are both pretty feel-good plays.”

Harris said using Horton Foote’s plays will be an ongoing project for the theater department this year as well as next year.

“We’re calling it the Horton Foote Initiative to show people there are great Texas playwrights and great plays about Texas,” he said. “We may do a full-length play next year, but I’d rather stick to the one acts because they have larger casts. I have friends who do Shakespeare every year in the fall, but I wanted to do something that delineates us. We’re trying to build a great program.”

Typically in the fall, most schools perform a full-length play with two to three acts, but Harris said he decided to create opportunity for more kids to perform by doing two one-act plays.

“The whole story takes place in one act,” he said. “For those attending, it will be just like going to see a full play, but instead there will be two separate stories that complement each other, because they take place in the same town and some of the characters even have the same last names.”

“The Midnight Caller” takes place in a boarding house that’s home to three women, Harris said. The owner takes in a man who the other tenants aren’t happy about, and also takes in a girl who’s had a troubled past.

“She is with a guy named Harvey, who is the town drunk, and he comes calling for her at midnight every night, and the story centers around how that plays in with all the characters,” Harris added.

“The Dancers” is the story of a boy named Horace who comes to visit his sister in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas. She has set him up with the most popular girl in town who doesn’t want anything to do with him, Harris said. He ends up going to the diner and meets a different girl, who he eventually ends up walking home and then asks her to the dance.

“It’s a story about confidence and finding who you are,” Harris said. “It’s also the story of how Horton Foote’s parents met. Horton used people he knew for all his plays.”

The same set is used for both plays, but the set is very modular, Harris said, meaning different pieces can be turned around to reveal different scenes. Students are helping with everything from painting to lighting design to sound design. There are 17 actors between both shows, and 10 technicians behind the scenes. Each play has a different cast, Harris said.

Senior Erin Goodson, who plays main character Elizabeth Crews in “The Dancers” and serves as vice president of LHHS’ thespian troupe, said she’s excited to put on both one-act plays because they are different from what the school’s theater department has done in the past.

“This is something different from what the community has seen before,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard for the past year to bounce back the theater program to where it’s really respectable and where everyone knows our plays will be the best quality we can put out.”

Junior Grace Mabry, who plays main character Mary Catherine Davis in “The Dancers” and serves as president of LHHS’ thespian troupe, said she’s also excited about the community coming to see the plays.

“The plays are very Americana and I think the community is really going to enjoy them,” she said. “I think a lot of people can relate to these plays because they take place in a small town, just like Liberty Hill, where everyone knows each other.”

Junior Lauren Evans, stage manager for both plays, said overall, she’s excited to see both plays coming together.

“Seeing the final effect of all our hard work coming together is really satisfying,” she said.

The Horton Foote Initiative will show Oct. 4, 5 and 6 at 7 p.m. in the LHHS PAC. Tickets are $5 per person.

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