The Playgoer: Horton has a Hoot

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Horton has a Hoot

What a weird fight for Horton Foote to pick.

Horton Foote has withdrawn his play Dividing the Estate from consideration for this year's Lucille Lortel Awards, after the committee nominated it as Outstanding Revival.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright contends that he did substantial rewrites on the play, which was presented last fall at Primary Stages, since its debut at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton in 1989, and should be considered a new work. The Lortel Administration Committee chose to stand by their original decision.
I mean, this is not a new play. No matter how many rewrites he did.

And shouldn't the whole point of a "New Play" award be to recognize and promote what's new in our theatre?

Also...he's Horton Foote, for chrissakes. Not only is he older than god, but he's already much celebrated, much honored, scribe who may not have won every award--but his Pulitzer and Oscar sure would seem to compensate for never winning a Lortel!

And that winning the Lortel "revival" isn't good enough, he's got to win the Best New Play...well that's just childish. I guess one difference is he wouldn't win anything for a revival--the production would. Guy just doesn't have enough prizes.

But I have another theory--this isn't about the Lortels. It's about the Tonys. The 2009 Tonys.

Dividing the Estate re-opens in a Broadway transfer in November. I imagine both Horton and his producers don't want any Lortel "precedent" influencing the Tony committee when they inevitably will have to take up this thorny question next year.

In the old days he would be fine. Tonys used to consider anything that had never played on Broadway a "new play." (Very telling, that.) Hence we had the bizarre and embarrassing spectacle of Buried Child being finally nominated for 1996 Best Play two decades after its premiere. And losing! (to, um Master Class.)

After that--and after the committee had to actually debate whether Timon of Athens could be a "new play" if it had never been "revived" on the Rialto--the rules were sensibly amended to consider titles revivals simply if they were not "new."

So in this context, you can see why Horton took his marbles home. He probably was afraid of winning!

(Hat tip to Mr Excitement for this story.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am told from a friend of mine inside Primary Stages that the reason was Horton wanted to be considered for the Pulitzer. Why, I don't know...he wasn't going to win, but he was afraid the Pulitzer people wouldn't consider it if he let the revival notation stand. (And judging from today, it looks like they didn't!)