Understanding The World of Horton Foote Part 1: Performance History

Today we kick off a 3-part series written by Chris Baker, the dramaturg for the Primary Stages production of The Roads to Home by Horton Foote. The dramaturg is responsible, in part, for researching the world of the play and providing background and historical context for the creative team. We’ve asked Chris Baker to share some of his fascinating research  here on our blog. We’ll be back with parts 2 and 3 of this series in the coming weeks. Enjoy! 

The Roads to Home


Horton Foote, by Keith Carter

Premiering in 1982, Horton Foote’s The Roads to Home is made up of three interconnecting parts—A Nightingale, The Dearest of Friends, and A Spring Dance—set in the 1920s.  The first two take place in Houston, the third in Austin.  Another location—Harrison, Texas—is present in the play through the stories, recollections, and longings of the characters.

The Premiere of The Roads to Home

The Roads to Home premiered in March 1982 at Manhattan’s Punch Line Theatre in New York. Directed by Calvin Skaggs, the cast included Hallie Foote as Annie Gayle. Describing the production as “almost a Southern Gothic comedy,” The New York Times’ John Corry observed that “people are askew – not mightily, but almost parenthetically, tilting, so to speak, coming together at odd angles that aren’t quite the proper angles.”

The 1992 revival

The play was revived ten years later at the Lamb’s Theatre under Horton Foote’s direction featuring Jean Stapleton and Hallie Foote, once again, as Annie Gayle. The production led Frank Rich of the New York Times to write: “Any list of America’s living literary wonders must include Horton Foote… just when the audience is set to relax into an elegiac reverie that might resemble nostalgia, the playwright finds a way to make his characters’ inner turmoil so ferociously vivid it leaps beyond their specific time and place to become our own.”  He singled out Hallie Foote’s performance as “transporting.”

The revival sparked a kind of renaissance for the playwright, particularly in New York.  Productions at Primary Stages and Signature Theatre would follow, and one of those plays, The Young Man from Atlanta, would earn Foote a Pulitzer Prize.  That play, along with Primary Stages’ production of Dividing the Estate, would bring Foote back to Broadway after a 40-year hiatus.  Michael Wilson, director of the current production, saw that 1992 revival.  Five years later, Wilson would direct The Death of Papa, one of Foote’s The Orphans’ Home Cycle plays, at Playmakers Repertory Theater in North Carolina.  It would mark the beginning of an important collaboration between Wilson and Foote.

Foote on The Roads to Home 

In Blessed Assurance: The Life and Art of Horton Foote , Marion Castleberry describes the women of the play as “refugees of small towns” who are trying to get home.  “They don’t do that consciously,” said Foote, “but they constantly find ways to refer to or think about the places they came from. They spend their time trying to reconstruct their past lives. It’s a variation on a theme.”


The Primary Stages production of The Roads to Home runs through November 6, 2016 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit the Primary Stages website for tickets and more info.


Meet the 2016 ESPA Drills Writers!

Primary Stages ESPA Drills is an annual new play development program providing extensive workshopping, a public presentation, and advocacy within the theater community for four new plays written at least in part at ESPA. Each June, these plays are selected by blind submission from dozens of submissions for their ambition, voice, imagination, and energy.


artist-poblete-mikeMike is thrilled to be taking part in Drills. Born in Brooklyn, he has had six full length plays and numerous one acts performed in six countries. His newest play, One Down, will premiere and run the month of August at San Antonio’s Overtime Theatre. He has a Playwriting MFA from Trinity College Dublin and currently works in a Broadway production office.


Surfacing by Mike Poblete
Directed by Carolyn Cantor
A bit of advice: don’t open with your botched suicide attempt on a first date.
August 15 at 4pm



Daniel McCoy is a playwright and performer based in New York City whose plays include Perfect Teeth, Cleave, Rapture2K, Epimythium, Dick Pix, Group, and Eli and Cheryl Jump. His work has been produced and developed at Theaterlab in New York, Simple Machine Theatre in Boston, Source Theatre Festival in Washington D.C., the New York International Fringe Festival, and many other venues. He is a current member of the Project Y Play Group and regular director for the Writopia Lab Worldwide Plays Festival. As an ensemble member of the New York Neo-Futurists, Daniel can be seen writing and performing regularly in Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go BlindDaniel is a graduate of the Rita and Burton Goldberg MFA Playwriting Program at Hunter College.

Rapture2K by Daniel McCoy
Directed by Morgan Gould
The end of the world’s not what it used to be.
August 15 at 7pm  



Joshua Strauch hails from Boca Raton, Florida. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and History from Florida State University. He’s also completed training programs in Improvisational Comedy from the iO and Annoyance Theatres in Chicago, Illinois. He is currently a member of the experimental improv troupe Mutual Slayer. Two of his short plays I Hate You, You… and Code Blue have been featured in the Detention short play series through the Primary Stages Einhorn School of Performing Arts. He hates, HATES mayonnaise and loves tomatoes. Joshua credits his full head of hair for all of his playwriting abilities. Without his thick, beautiful hair…Joshua would be nothing.

The Call Center by Joshua Strauch
Directed by Gregg Wiggans
The telemarketing industry is dying… but so is humanity.
August 16 at 4pm



Stephen Brown’s work has been developed and received readings by Primary Stages, MCC, Page 73, The Road Theatre, and the Aurora Theatre. He’s been a past winner of the Global Age Project, a finalist for the Juilliard Playwriting Fellowship, and a semi-finalist for the O’Neill, PlayPenn, and the P73 Fellowship. He was a member of Page 73’s playwriting group I-73 and has had residencies with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and SPACE on Ryder Farm. He is a founding member of the famous Nighthawks Dance Crew.

Montgomery by Stephen Brown
Directed by Suzanne Agins
When you don’t have a license but you do have a vengeance, kidnapping country music singers is easier than you’d think.
August 16 at 7pm

Behind the Scenes: Exit Strategy’s Set Design

Scenic Designer Andrew Boyce gives us a behind the scenes look at the process of creating the set for Exit Strategy by Ike Holter.

Tell us a little bit about the set design for Exit Strategy.

The play takes place primarily in the teachers lounge of a dilapidated public school in Chicago. So we dove into creating this environment as realistically as we were able. The play asks for that naturalism. I had the opportunity to go and visit some Chicago high schools, take photographs, etc. – so the materials and layout of the space came from that investigation.

What is your favorite part of the set?

It’s hard to pinpoint a singular, favorite part – but I did love wrestling with, and creating all of the little details that add up and round out the verisimilitude of this room. Thinking through the material choices, the right pieces of furniture, set dressing, etc. It was an exercise in specificity and patience in continuing to search.

Tell us a little about the process of designing the set to be used in (and moved between) Philadelphia and The Cherry Lane Theatre in New York.

That was the trickiest part of this process. They are two very different spaces that have different proportions, audience relationships, and design challenges. And tearing down and rebuilding scenery is always tricky – things get beat up, change, need re-configuring. Supporting the play in the two different spaces was an exciting challenge.

The set is quite detailed. What’s something that the audience may not notice right away, but should keep and eye out for when they see Exit Strategy.

Maybe the paper-products in the dressing? The teachers-union announcements, the posters, the recycling directions… [they’re all] straight from the source.


The Primary Stages production of Exit Strategy by Ike Holter is running now through May 6, 2016 at The Cherry Lane Theatre. For more information and tickets, visit our website.

Exit Strategy: Production Photos

A fiery, riveting work from the award-winning writer of Hit the Wall, about the chaotic final days of an urban public high school, Exit Strategy is a taut, edge-of-your-seat drama about the future of public education from a vital new voice in American playwriting.

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Ryan Spahn and Christina Nieves

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Ryan Spahn and Aimé Donna Kelly

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Ryan Spahn

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Deirdre Madigan

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Brandon J. Pierce

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Michael Cullen

Primary Stages - "Exit Strategy"

Christina Nieves

Performances for Exit Strategy run through May 6 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.


Projection Design: Interview with Alex Basco Koch

Projection Designer Alex Basco Koch shares how he brought Paul Watson’s photography and other design elements to life on stage in The Body of an American. 

Performances for The Body of an American run through March 20 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.