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Dividing the Estate

By Horton Foote

Directed by Abigail Adams

May 11 – June 5, 2011


The Broadway hit makes its Philadelphia premiere at People’s Light! In a small Texas town c. 1987 at the height of the oil recession, the Gordons are land rich, cash poor and grandly deluded. A crisis in the family forces these self-absorbed, endearingly dysfunctional brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and servants to agree on a course of action to steady what looks like a very uncertain future.

The running time of this production is approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes, including one 15 minute intermission.

Son Gordon: Christian Pedersen*
Stella Gordon: Carla Belver*
Lucille: Marcia Saunders*
Mildred: Cathy Simpson*
Doug: Lou Ferguson*
Lewis: Graham Smith*
Pauline: Amy Hutchins*
Cathleen: Aimé Kelly
Sissie: Elena Bossler*
Emily: Victoria Frings*
Mary Jo: Kathryn Petersen*
Bob: Greg Wood*
Irene Ratliff: Emilie Krause
Director: Abigail Adams
Production Manager: Charles T. Brastow*
Set Designer: Tony Straiges
Costume Designer: Colleen Muscha
Lighting Designer: Dennis Parichy
Dialect Designer: Amy Stoller
Production Stage Manager: Audrey M. Brown*
Sound Designer: Christopher Colucci
Dramaturgs: Elizabeth Pool and Hannah Daniel

* Member, Actors' Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers.

Set Design

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.

The Playwright
Horton FooteHorton 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.

Damn Yankees
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.”

Send Us Your Stories

In the play Dividing the Estate, the Gordon family is locked in a battle over whether to divide, sell, or keep the family estate. While the play is fictional, the story is a common reality, and in Southeastern Pennsylvania where land is a hot commodity, disagreements among family members can have huge implications. Do you have a personal story to share about your experience with conservation or preserving land in our region? We would love to read and share your story with our members online.

Submit your written stories to us at:

People’s Light & Theatre
39 Conestoga Road
Malvern, PA 19355
Attn: Amy Wilson

or email

A Conversation about Horton Foote with the Wall Street Journal's Terry Teachout and Abigail Adams

Join us to hear The Wall Street Journal’s Theatre Critic Terry Teachout and Artistic Director Abigail Adams discuss Dividing the Estate and one of America’s greatest playwrights, Horton Foote.

Call 610.644.3500 to RSVP for this FREE event!

Terry Teachout photoTerry Teachout photo

Sun, 04/10/2011 - 6:00pm
Steinbright Stage

Choosing Conservation in the 21st Century: An Evening with the Natural Lands Trust at People’s Light

In the play Dividing the Estate, the Gordon family is locked in a battle over whether to divide, sell or keep the family estate. While the play is fictional, the story is a common reality, and in Southeastern Pennsylvania where land is a hot commodity, disagreements among family members can have huge implications. As open space dwindles and estates are developed, what options are available to landowners? How can they balance financial needs with their love of the land? Spend an evening at People’s Light with panel members who have in-depth personal experience with the issue: a landowner whose family chose conservation, a developer, a lawyer who advises landowners, and the president of regional conservation organization Natural Lands Trust, Molly Morrison.

The panelists are:
- Molly Morrison, President, Natural Lands Trust
- Jim Fuller, Vice President, Hankin Group
- Tim Barnard, attorney, Barnard, Mezzanotte, Pinnie & Seelaus
- Grace Sharples Cooke, landowner whose mother donated an easement to NLT

RSVP for this FREE event by calling 610.644.3500.

Mon, 05/16/2011 - 7:00pm
Main Stage

The Scoop on Dividing the Estate

With this production People’s Light continues its program called The Scoop: History, Context, and Gossip, a lively discussion before every performance. People's Light Scenic Shop Foreman Dylan Jamison will discuss the world of the play, how and why it was chosen, as well as how it was cast, designed, and rehearsed. Refreshments will be available in the lobby before The Scoop begins and before the performance. The program will start one hour before curtain time and will take place in the theatre. No reservations are necessary.

Main Stage

What's Texas like?

Dividing the Estate takes place in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas. So what's Texas like? We've collected a few photos from our Education/Dramaturgy Fellow, Hannah Daniel—she's a native of Texas and is full of knowledge on the subject. Check out her photos!

Whataburgers (think "What-A-Burger"—that's how to say it) are a
popular fast food joint. The name originates with the idea that you'd order
your burger just the way you like it (a novelty in the early days of fast