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“A Nightingale”

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Foote, Horton (American playwright, screenwriter, 1916-____), “A Nightingale,”
a 35-minute drama in English, set in the kitchen of Mabel and Jack Votaugh, Houston, Texas, around 7:00 a.m., early April, 1924,


  •  © 1982 by Horton Foote;  •  in Horton Foote’s Selected One-Act Plays of Horton Foote, edited by Gerald C. Wood (Dallas, Texas, U.S.A.: Southern Methodist University Press, 1989), ISBN 0-87074-274-4, ISBN 0-87074-275-2 ; also in Horton Foote’s The Roads to Home, acting edition (New York: Dramatists Play Service, Inc., date unknown);  •  script/rights available from Dramatists Play Service, Inc., 440 Park Avenue South New York, New York 10016, U.S.A., 212-683-8960, fax 212-213-1539, http://www.dramatists.com, postmaster@dramatists.com, DPS 3845.  •  Cited by Allen L. Hubby via e-mail hubby@interport.net, March 20, 1997. Also, cited by Horton Foote, via ftp July 7, 2000.

  §  Dramatis Personae Vonnie Hayhurst (f), 40, wife of Eddie, neighbor of Mabel; Mabel Votaugh (f), 42, wife of Jack; Annie Gayle Long (f), Mable’s young neighbor; Mr. Long (m), 35, Annie’s husband.

  §  Synopsis Vonnie, just back from a trip, has come over to see her best friend Mabel, a fellow small-Texas-town refugee. Vonnie expects a visit from a young woman named Annie Long, a girlhood acquaintance of Mabel’s who is slipping inexorably into sanity. Mabel and Vonnie are forbearing and patient about Annie’s protracted and uninvited visits. As uncomfortable as she makes them, Mabel and Vonnie are more concerned with silencing Annie’s vivid recounting of old scandals and the pain they caused. Mabel recounts at length the tragic background of the young woman. As a girl, Annie saw her banker father shot to death by his best friend, a farmer on whom the father had foreclosed. Annie and her mother went away, but in time Annie married and now lives within streetcar distance. She has taken to visiting Vonnie, a habit which Vonnie’s husband, Mr.  Long, disapproves. When Annie arrives, her behavior is unbalanced, and her speech rambles, even into memories of the shooting. She fails to follow Vonnie’s explanations of local events and confuses the names of her own children. Annie asks to be taught how to pray, then does not pay attention. The older women discuss local church intrigues (the Baptist preacher has runoff with another  man) despite Annie’s interruptions. Mr. Long arrives to retrieve his wandering young wife. She voices fears of being killed like her father. To return to work, the husband must put Annie on one streetcar home while he takes another. Mr. Long and Annie leave. After Mabel and Vonnie gossip for a time, Annie returns, alone, looking for the children she remembers having brought with her this morning. Mabel sends her off to the streetcar again, this time with a prayer on a piece of paper to focus her mind. Annie leaves, but she returns almost immediately to announce she has decided to go to a matinee at the picture show. She then sings for the ladies.

  §  Comment The story deals with Annie’s inability to cope after the murder and examines “the dark side of religious impulses.”  •  Published with and can pair with “The Dearest of Friends” or “Spring Dance.” “A Nightingale” can stand alone or serve as the first of three acts in The Roads to Home, which ties into the exploits of the Vauhgn family from Harrison, Texas—from Foote’s earlier work, The Orphan’s Home Cycle.  The pace is definitely American Southern, in the style of this author’s many other noteworthy scripts. Except for capturing subtleties of era and ambience, the production problems are simple and few.  •  The Manhattan Punch Line Theatre, Inc., in association with Indian Falls Productions, at the Manhattan Punch Line ,’Theatre in New York City, premiered the trilogy The Roads to Home on March 25, 1982.  •  Listed in 1/2/3/4 for the Show: A Guide to Small-Cast One-Act Plays, vol. 1 (Lanham, Maryland, and London: The Scarecrow Press, 1995), ISBN 0-8108-2985-1, p. 77.  •  Horton Foote’s playwriting career spans more than fifty years. His plays have appeared on Broadway, off-Broadway, off-off Broadway and throughout America. He received the William Inge Lifetime Achievement Award and the Screen Laurel Award from the Writers Guild of America as well as honorary doctorates from American Film Institute, Austin College, and Drew University.

  §  Themes belief, child abuse, confusion, coping, divorce, displacement, human relations, irony, murder, prayer, religion, reality, social pressure, streetcar, visit.

See also Horton Foote’s:
  • "Blind Date," a comedy set in the living room of Robert and Dolores Henry's home in Harrison, Texas, 1929, 2m2f
  • The Dearest of Friends,” a drama in English, 2m2f
  • The One-Armed Man,” a drama in English, 3m
  • The Prisoner’s Song,” a drama in English, 2m2f
  • Spring Dance,” a 25-minute drama in English, set in a section of enclosed garden adjoining a ballroom-auditorium where a dance is being held, in an asylum, Austin, Texas, spring, 1928, 3m1f


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