Brilliant director Timothy Douglas helmed the 2011 co-production of Horton Foote's THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at Round House Theatre and Cleveland Play House. And I had the great fortune to serve as dramaturg. Timothy and I had worked together previously on Thomas Gibbons' Permanent Collection, so I was excited to be in the room with him again.
In Timothy's hands, Horton Foote's masterful play was told eloquently and seamlessly through the lens of a Black family, which made it even more powerful, relevant and beautiful. At least it was to me ... a young Black woman from Texas, who was experiencing the difficulty of her parents aging not-so-gracefully.
Of course, D.C. audiences will remember Timothy's production at Round House Theatre, which featured Doug Brown, Jessica Frances Dukes, Chinai J. Hardy, Howard Overshown, Lizan Mitchell, and Lawrence Redmond. This production had meant so much to me. And so had the play...
I had first read THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL back in college. I had spent hours and hours transcribing a film, HORTON FOOTE TRIBUTE, which had been written, directed and produced by my screenwriting professor, Richard Lewis. The film had been commissioned by the Texas Book Festival in honor of the Oscar, Emmy, and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and was broadcast on PBS stations throughout Texas. This was back in 1999.
When the Broadway revival was announced and said to be starring none other than Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr., I scoured the press release for Timothy's name. I mean, it only made sense. He had just directed it using the same conceit of having the Watts family cast with African American actors. I was all set to update the dramaturgy packet and additional research materials in the event he should need them. Only Timothy's name never appeared. He wasn't attached to the production in any way.
Stunned, I text him immediately and shared my dismay. We spent a few moments commiserating our mutual disappointment and several more moments working through the frustration of the lack of opportunities for people of color on the Great White Way. Later, once the sting had worn off, I was able to file it under "yet another pivotal moment that wiped away several shades from my rose tinted my glasses." Such lessons in life are useful, bitter though they may be.
If you have a moment, please read this informative, thorough and compelling article, The Not-So-Bountiful Trip to Broadway by Alisa Solomon, a drama critic and professor at Columbia University's School of Journalism. In it, Timothy Douglas speaks graciously and candidly about his experience. It's an absolute must-read for any artist working in the American Theatre today.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!