Published on November 23, 2007
Horton Foote’s The Dancers: Horton Foote’s The Dancers By Bob Canale Matt Lewers George Smith Horton Foote: Horton Foote Many a man strives to live out an eventful life. And with all the accomplishments that were completed by Foote, it can be said that he did just that. Born in Wharton, Texas in 1916, Foote was the son of a shopkeeper. And in the spirit of a true southerner, his favorite food was fried chicken. After he graduated from Wharton High School, he attended the Pasadena Playhouse for two years and later he studied acting in New York. He wrote many plays, novels, films, and dramas including To Kill a Mockingbird; A Trip to Bountiful; Tender Mercies; The Traveling Lady; The Chase; Harrison, Texas; and Baby, the Rain Must Fall. These writings composed by Foote lead to numerous major awards being given to him, which made his many worth while accomplishments shine. Taken from the play entitled Harrison, Texas, The Dancers is one of Foote’s lesser known works. This work shows a strong connection and remembrance of his home town and its people. Set in the time frame of the early fifties, this play simply portrays one event of its small town people. The Dancers: The Dancers This play settles around six main characters who are Emily Crews (a popular girl), Elizabeth Crews (Emily’s mother), Horace (a out of town eighteen year old), Inez Stanley (Horace’s married sister), Mary Catherine Davis ( a local girl), and Tom Davis (Mary Catherine’s father). There are other people in this play who do not play as a significant role as the previous stated characters. Those people are the waitress at the local drug store known by some as Lila, Herman Stanley (Inez Stanley’s husband), Velma Morrison (another local girl), Mrs. Davis (Mary Catherine’s father), Leo (the boyfriend of Emily who is stuck in summer school), Eloise Dayton and Leora (two more local girls), and Stanley Sewell (a local boy). In the beginning of the play, Inez Stanley was at the drugstore but there was one problem-she had no ideal why she had come in there. Currently, Inez was trying to make sure that everything was ready for her brother Horace’s arrival in town. Inez was also busy making sure that he had plenty of social activities to keep him occupied while in town. She had even gotten him a date with the most popular girl in town. And as a result, all of this work that she had done had left her absent minded. Just then Elizabeth and her daughter Emily entered the drugstore (Emily was the most popular girl in town with whom this date was arranged. Elizabeth and Inez began to converse about little details of the date. But with out a doubt The Dancers: The Dancers Emily was not very enthusiastic about the upcoming date. Through her choice of words, Elizabeth practically forced Emily to agree that she was thrilled about that night. Immediately Emily got out of the drugstore, using her hair appointment as an excuse to leave. Inez then remembered that she came to find out what color Emily’s dress would be so she could order the corsage. After finding out that the dress was blue, Elizabeth and Inez walked to the florist together. Horace arrived at Inez and Herman house. After greetings and small talk, Inez proceeded to tell Horace about how she arranged him a date with the prettiest girl in town. Not exactly excited about going to the dance, Horace asked her what Emily thought of them going to the dance together. Horace could not give him a straight answer. The focus was then shifted to Horace’s dancing ability. Acting as Horace’s surrogate mother, Inez danced with Horace and then reassured him that he was a good dancer and tried to restore his confidence. Meanwhile, at Emily’s house nothing had been done in preparation for the dance. Emily cried while begging her mother not to make her go to the dance with whom she referred to as an goon. Emily ran to her room. Her mother started to yell for her to get ready as the doorbell rang. The Dancers: The Dancers Uncomfortable, Horace sat down and Elizabeth attempted to stall for Emily by asking Horace questions. It could obviously be seen that Elizabeth was not really paying any attention to Horace when she asked him the same question twice. And after asking him three questions without giving him time to say more than three words in response, she ran up the stairs and knocked on the locked door of Emily’s room and coaxed her into doing what she was asking of her. Emily refused. Elizabeth lied to Horace telling him that Emily had a fever and was not feeling well. She told him Emily wanted him to call her tomorrow and tried to make it seem as if she really cared. After leaving the house of the Crews, Horace made his way to the empty drugstore. Mary Catherine came in the store from the movies and not the big dance. She insisted that she could have gone to the dance to the waiter ( but she thinks of herself as a plain girl). She then talked about the date that had been arranged and referred to Horace (who she did not know was sitting in the drugstore) as a “bore.” Horace left and went to the corner. Outside in the street he began to dance with an imaginary partner. The waiter and Mary Catherine ridiculed him behind his back, not knowing his situation. Inez came home and immediately voiced her disgust with what Emily had done to The Dancers: The Dancers Horace. Herman (Inez’s husband) told Inez that both she and her mother needed to stop pushing the boy and just leave him alone. Inez told him how she could not leave him alone because it was her duty to see to it that Horace learned how to have a good time before he went off to college the next year. The next evening Mary Catherine came to the waitress and told her that the boy they were talking about was in the drugstore and probably heard every word that they said. Horace then entered the drugstore once more that evening and ended up at the magazine rack. Emily entered the store and went over to Mary Catherine. When her attention was finally brought to Horace, she greeted him and apologized to him. She also told him that she refused to go out with any other boy besides Leo, her steady boy friend and this was just part of a battle with her mother. She was even able to force Mary Catherine into agreeing that no boy took offense when she turned them down (much like how her mother forced her to answer a question earlier in the play). Emily left and Mary Catherine stayed at the drugstore waiting for her sensitive friend Velma to meet her there. At that moment she began to explain to Mary Catherine how her friendship with Emily had weakened because Emily was going to college with Eloise Dayton at Sophie Newcomb while she, Mary Catherine, was planning to save her money for business school in Houston. Velma comes into the drugstore only to tell Mary Catherine that she is The Dancers: The Dancers going riding with Stanley Sewell. Then the stage is set for Mary Catherine and Horace to get aquatinted with each other better. Meanwhile, at the Crew’s house Emily found her mother, crying her head off. Elizabeth told her that Inez and she have stopped talking to each other. Inez even “blessed her out.” Most likely filled with rage, Inez told her how Horace’s vacation had been ruined. Elizabeth then asked Emily of one favor that would result in her never asking anything of her again or nagging about Leo ever again either---to let Horace take her to a dance. Elizabeth begged her. Emily agreed to think about it because she just wanted her mother to stop crying. In some other part of the town, Horace had just escorted Mary Catherine to her house and then they heard music coming from the flats (a bunch of restaurants, most likely a trucker stop, located in a dried up river bed). This triggered a conversation about dancing and how all one needs is confidence. Afterwards, Horace meets Mary Catherine’s father, Tom Davis. Following a brief dialogue, Tom Davis went to bed. Mary Catherine then told Horace about her father, a mechanic, losing sleep over not being able to send his daughter to a decent college. When she was confronted by her mother The Dancers: The Dancers she decided to tell her father she would rather go to business school to relieve him of his worries. Again Horace and Mary Catherine talked about confidence and what it takes to get it. Horace confessed that she was the first girl whom he had ever really talked to. He then asked her to go to a dance with him. She agreed, turned on the radio, and began to dance with him. The next morning Horace was filled with joy and in an extremely pleasant state of mind. Inez, not yet knowing why he was so happy, told him her good news. Emily had called Inez and apologized and had offered to go with him to the upcoming dance as long as he would call her and ask. In addition, her mother said that they were leaving for Houston to buy her the most expensive dress they could find just to impress Horace. As this dampens Horace’s mood, he explains how he already has a date to the dance. Franticly, Inez told Horace he must break the date with Mary Catherine Davis. She says just to tell her the truth---how his sister’s best friend had her daughter willing to attend a dance with Horace and how they are spending a significant amount to money on a new dress for her. Being considerate, Horace asks about what would happen if Mary Catherine also buys a new dress. Inez immediately deems it inconsequential since Mary Catherine is not from an affluent family. But Horace still refuses to break his date. Then Inez cries while worrying what to The Dancers: The Dancers do about her friendship with Elizabeth. At Mary Catherine’s house Tom Davis is putting on a shirt in preparation of Horace’s arrival. Mary Catherine looks really good in her dress. Horace enters. He greets the parents and as they leave he gives her a corsage. At that moment she thanks him for taking her, despite the mix up with Emily and the dance. Before they actually leave for the dance, Horace almost backs out of going. However, Mary Catherine confesses that this is her first dance even though she has been previously asked. The only reason she had agreed to go with him was because they gave each other confidence. After practicing dancing for a short while, they leave, scared but ready. The Dancers: The Dancers In the one act play The Dancers, there were four stage sets which were on the stage at all times to help simplify the overall motion of the play. The first stage set that the reader was introduced to was the drugstore. Without a doubt the drugstore was an informal meeting place.This set symbolizes every human emotion since it was a free and public place that is not limited to any one person or group and was also subject to almost any event that could occur within its boundaries. The second stage set that was seen in the play was the house of Inez Stanley. This set did not have much attention focused on its furnishings, but the reader can tell that it probably had the regular furniture of a living room. At the same time this was a shallow yet truthful environment. Horace and Herman always voiced their opinions clearly as well as truthfully. On the other hand, Inez made it a shallow environment because of her own actions. Her friendship with Elizabeth Crews was not based on a decency and truthfulness, but on using each other to better their own lives and only their own lives. Elizabeth and Inez only set up the date so one can rid her daughter of a lousy boyfriend and the other can show her brother how to have a good time. Inez also contributed to making her living room into a tyrannical environment in which she ordered everyone (especially Horace) to do as she desired. Later in the play, the house of Emily and Elizabeth Crews was introduced and the The Dancers: The Dancers action was again concentrated in the living room. This set is like a battlefield with a war raging on it constantly. That war was the mother daughter conflict between Elizabeth and Emily. And thanks to this conflict, this resulted in a very hostile environment. This setting was also based on material things. It was an artificial place because of its lack of true love, feelings, and emotions for each other. The only happiness expressed was founded in material belongings and popularity in addition to adorance by other people. The only things this setting stood for were conflict and artificial happiness. Finally, the stage set that was introduced as Mary Catherine’s living room was most likely very similar to the previous two when it comes to its interior. The only scenes that took place in this area are positive ones. It was the exact opposite of Emily’ living room. There was no struggle within its walls and it was a warm and friendly environment. The happiness and love found here was brought on by true feelings between the family members. It symbolizes love brought on by truth. The Dancers: The Dancers In this play, many of the scenes involved some kind of relationship. There were three main types on relationships. They were child interacting with child, adult interacting with adult, and adult interacting with child. The relationship of a child interacting with another child was seen multiple times throughout the play. When Horace talked with Emily and Elizabeth in the diner was one example. A second example was when Horace talked with Mary Catherine alone. The relationship seemed to only be friendly when both members interacting knew each other. Also, it seemed to have a stronger foundation only when both members had something in common. And many times there was a leader in the relationship who basically dictated how and what will happen. Emily would definitely be the leader and Horace and Mary Catherine the followers. The relationship between two adults also surfaced in the play. It dealed with people like Elizabeth, Inez, and even Herman. The relationship between a husband and a wife and friend and a friend was completely different. The one between a man and a woman seemed to be “raw” with each member voicing their true opinions. This relationship seemed to be a lot more truthful which results in varying moods and pure and raw emotions. Thus this relationship is quicker to create a feud between its members but can also be fixed faster thanks to it basis in love. A relationship between an adult friend and an adult friend on the other hand The Dancers: The Dancers is less truthful. Its merits are based on pleasing the other member to keep the relationship so that in the future if one member is ever in need of the other the friendship will help that member to agree to help the other. The relationship between two adults is usually much more shallow and only there to help each member get what they want when they want. The final relationship was the one between adults and children. Exemplified by Inez, Horace, Elizabeth, and Emily, this relationship can be the most hostile and different. And what makes it so different was the difference of generations. It was the newer generation (children) verses the older generation (adults). The older was always in power. And what creates the hostility is basically a mad power struggle. The newer was always attempting to grasp the power and take control. But they could never quite succeed. This then makes the newer generation bent on defiance and “making a statement.” As time goes on they become enraged that they are still not there own bosses. Unfortunately for them, the older generation always won. And the only time the newer wins was when they become the older.