‘Orphans’ finds a home at Hartford

Foote's 9 plays to be presented together

“Orphans” has finally found a home.

For the first time, Horton Foote’s nine-play “The Orphans’ Home Cycle” will be presented together in a co-production from Connecticut’s Hartford Stage and Off Broadway’s Signature Theater.

Productions will begin in late August at Hartford and kick off at Signature in late October, continuing through spring 2010.

Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winner Foote, 92, is adapting the full-length plays into three parts of about three hours each. Michael Wilson, who recently helmed Foote’s “Dividing the Estate” on the Rialto and is a.d. at Hartford Stage, will direct the cycle, which plays Hartford Aug. 27-Oct. 17.

Signature will stage the works Oct. 29-April 11. The theater presented an entire season of Foote plays in 1994-95. One of the shows presented then, “The Young Man From Atlanta” (featuring characters from “Orphans’ Home”), won the 1995 Pulitzer.

Twenty actors will be cast over a nine-month period at the two theaters. The three-part version of the cycle was commissioned by Hartford Stage in 2007. The exact cost of the endeavor has not been finalized.

The three parts of the cycle will preem incrementally during its runs and eventually play in repertory, with auds able to see each seg individually or all three in one-day marathons.

Single plays from the cycle have been produced in New York, at regional theaters and on film and television, but they have never been presented together. Three of the plays — “Roots in a Parched Ground,” “Convicts” and “Cousins” — will be making their world preems.

Cycle is partially based on the childhood of Foote’s father and the marriage of his parents.

Part I combines play “Roots in a Parched Ground,” “Convicts” and “Lily Dale.” Story follows protag Horace Robedaux during his formative years in the wake of his father’s death at the turn of the 20th century in the fictional small town of Harrison, Texas.

Part II, made up of “The Widow Claire,” “Courtship” and “Valentine’s Day,” focuses on the married life of Horace and his new wife.

Part III consists of “1918,” “Cousins” and “The Death of Papa.” Plot picks up with the turmoil of WWI and ends with the characters looking to the future of their family and land.

“It’s incredibly moving to see all of these plays from my years of writing come together into the theatrical cycle that I’ve always envisioned,” Foote said in a statement.

At Hartford Stage, Wilson also directed “The Death of Papa,” “The Trip to Bountiful” and the world premiere of “The Carpetbagger’s Children,” which moved to an Off Broadway run at Lincoln Center in 2002. Wilson also directed the 2004 Off Broadway staging of Foote’s “The Day Emily Married.”

Connecticut auds will get an early dose of Foote when the recently closed Broadway production of “Dividing the Estate” plays Hartford Stage in late spring.

Foote received Oscars for his screenplay adaptation of 1962’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” and his original screenplay to 1983’s “Tender Mercies.” Foote was also nominated for his adaptation of his own play, “The Trip to Bountiful,” and penned the screenplay for the 1991 film version of “Of Mice and Men” starring John Malkovich and Gary Sinise.

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