Take a look at the set design from Scenic Designer Tony Straiges for Dividing the Estate:
Horton Foote's Home Town
Dividing the Estate takes place in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas, but playwright Horton Foote incorporated bits of his own home town of Wharton into the landscape of the play. Like Harrison, Wharton was a small, rural town where real estate was going downhill and a lot of families found themselves struggling. To learn more about the town of Wharton click here.
Horton Foote To learn about the writings and life of Horton Foote, click here.
To listen to a September 2007 interview of Horton Foote by Downstage Center, the acclaimed American Theatre Wing's interview program, click here.
Good Ol' Southern Home Cooking
At one point in the play, the Gordon family sits down to a meal only to start arguing about the price of groceries and the meals being too expensive. Hannah Daniel, our Education/Dramaturgy Fellow and resident "Texas expert," noted in her dramaturgy what her mother described as a typical Southern meal:
We always had the sweet potatoes with marshmallows and pecans at Thanksgiving. Mashed potatoes at most dinners. [Her stepmother] often had lots of veggies with no potatoes OR meat!! Pecan pie would have been a frequent option or apple pie. We never had dessert regularly growing up unless a special occasion.
Hannah's father added:
A big dinner (e.g. Sunday dinner) would have included a meat such as fried chicken, roast beef or baked ham; at least two veggies such as butterbeans, mustard greens, corn, okra (fried or boiled) or the sweet potato casserole [Hannah's mother] mentioned; bread such as the biscuits you mentioned or cornbread…Sunday dinner you might have rolls. For desert a cake of some type: pound cake, caramel cake, or a pie like pecan or lemon meringue.
The Gordon family meals would have their roots in Southern cooking. These accounts provide an outline of what would have been on the table. These meals, as noted in the script by the debate of who would serve the meal, are brought in by course, which lends itself to a more complex meal.
What are the ramifications about being a "Yankee" or "part Yankee"? In the script, Son brings this up:
SON: And this boy said “I bet you have a blue belly just like your Yankee grandfather.”
From a social standpoint, being “Yankee” or “part Yankee” influenced others' perception of you and your quality as a person living in the South. As late as 1996, the divide between Yankee and Southerner remained. Northerners were moving South to cash in on the growing metropolises of the South—as many saw it, the North was moving south to take advantage and make a profit. As one Canadian recalls of his time researching in the South: “When I first went on a research trip to Mississippi, I noticed people in county archives and courthouses were a little cold until I happened to mention I was Canadian. 'A Canadian!' they would say, 'well come on in. Why, we thought you were a Yankee!' I quickly learned to mention I was Canadian almost before I said my name.”