Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Text Summary of The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 1: The Story of a Childhood

Missed The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 1: The Story of a Childhood, or want to catch up on what happened before you see Part 2: The Story of a Marriage? Here's a summary of what happened:

Act I, Roots in a Parched Ground, takes us to Harrison, Texas in 1902. Horace’s father, Paul Robedaux, a once prominent lawyer, has succumbed to alcoholism and is on his death bed. Horace’s mother, Corella Thornton, who separated from her husband before he died, has been working in Houston. Horace’s extended families, the Robedauxs and the Thorntons, once occupied a prosperous place in the antebellum Southern aristocracy, but have failed to recover from the devastation of the Civil War and are struggling to make ends meet. The Robedauxs, grief-stricken after Paul Horace’s death, sell their house and move out of Harrison. Corella returns to Houston with Horace’s younger sister Lily Dale and remarries Pete Davenport, a railroad man who “has no bad habits.” Mr. Davenport refuses to take Horace, believing that a boy his age should be put to work. Horace stays with his mother’s family, quits school, and sets off on his own to work full-time, with the hope of saving enough money to buy a tombstone for his father’s grave.

Act II, Convicts, takes place on Christmas Eve, 1904. Horace is working at a dry goods store on the Gautier plantation, which is worked by black convicts. The plantation owner, Soll Gautier, is an alcoholic and delusional confederate war veteran who continually defers paying Horace his salary. Instead, he enlists Horace in accompanying him throughout the night while he hunts convicts and painfully recalls his troubled past. Back at the house, Soll senses that his time has come, and asks Horace to stay with him until he dies. By the morning, Soll is dead, and Horace is out of a job. Asa Gautier Vaughn, Soll’s niece and the inheritor of his estate, refuses to pay Horace for his work.

Act III, Lily Dale, brings us to Houston in 1910 where Horace has come to pay a visit to his mother and sister. Lily Dale shows off her piano skills to Horace and secretly confides in him that she has a suitor named Will Kidder, whom she hopes to marry. The visit ends abruptly when Mr. Davenport, who believes more than ever that Horace should be fully supporting himself, comes home early. Corella asks Horace to leave, but a debilitating fever confines him to the Davenport home until he regains his health. Corella works to maintain an amiable environment as tension festers between Horace and Mr. Davenport. Horace had hoped to get a job working on the railroad with Mr. Davenport, but Mr. Davenport gives the job to Will instead. After hearing about them from Will, Horace decides to attend a business school in Houston, so that he will be able to advance beyond being a store clerk. Lily Dale is pleased by Mr. Davenport’s approval of Will, but she becomes frustrated with Horace’s curiosity about their late father. When Horace is finally healthy enough to leave, he sets off for Harrison, knowing that a home does not exist in Houston with his mother, sister, and step-father.

See you at the theatre!

1 comment:

Robert said...

I found this summary most helpful. I saw Part 1 yesteday and enjoyed it very much. Congratulations to the superb cast. Particularly I want to mention the efforts of Dylan and Henry, the two actors who played the two young boys in the play. Dylan was wonderful in all his scenes. Henry gave one of the most natural performances I have even seen by a child actor, and I have seen a lot! Congratulations, Dylan and Henry, and best wishes for long and successful careers in the theater! Loved your play.

Robert Wills, Toronto, Canada