THE STORY: 1929, Harrison, Texas. Myra Tolliver makes her living playing the live music for the silent pictures. She makes barely enough to survive, caring for herself and her teenage son, Pete. As borders in the home of the Jacksons, Myra supplements her rent by giving piano lessons to the Jackson’s two daughters. Mr. Jackson is a railroad man who, during the course of the play, is bumped from his engineer’s position stationed in Harrison, to one stationed elsewhere, and bumped back again. They’ll stay in Harrison, meaning Myra and Pete can stay; that is if Myra can continue to find work since talkies are about to take over the town picture show and Myra won’t be needed anymore. Myra knows her means of making a living is at an end, and that her prospects are dim, but she is willing to do almost anything to keep her and Pete going. While trying so hard to provide for her son, his father, Gerard, keeps trying to lure Pete away from Myra to live with him. Changing girlfriends, jobs and being a showoff, Gerard doesn’t know anything about bringing up their son, but Myra doesn’t realize how much Pete believes his father’s promises of a better life. Through all this, Myra is courted by Willis, a bricklayer abandoned by his wife five years earlier. Smitten with Myra, everyone knows Willis will soon ask her to marry him. Though taken with Willis, Myra may not be in love with him. He will be a good provider though, and a kind, loving companion, so when he does ask Myra to marry him, she accepts. Pete announces he will go to live with his father, nearly breaking Myra’s heart. She won’t stop him though, for fear he will hate her. Yet when Gerard casually announces he is married again and he is postponing Pete’s move, Pete knows things will never turn out the way he wanted. Myra, now happy Pete is staying with her, faces a hard life since the talkies have come to Harrison. Around them, the Jackson girls learn music from Myra and listen to the stories of a young preacher boy their own age who will travel back to his native Mexico, leaving the girls with dreams of running away to that exotic land. Willis’ ex-wife shows up too, running away from an abusive boyfriend, hoping Willis will take her back to shield her. Through it all, Myra and Willis quietly carve out a place for themselves and what will be a new era.
The arrival of the talkies at the town picture show foreshadows the cataclysmic change around the corner, when the Depression hits later that year. “…[Foote’s] carefully mapped southern Texas world of sweet and small passions has a depth and complexity, a poetic feel for the littleness of the human comedy, that makes him a giant among his contemporaries.” —NY Post. “Foote sensitively portrays the small moments in ordinary lives. Schoolgirl crushes, suicidal rage, and the ache of loneliness are given full resonance by this dramatist with Tennessee Williams’s sympathetic soul and William Inge’s camera-like eye for the everyday.” —BackStage. “I love Horton Foote’s writing…Foote’s plays…take their time to pull you in and work their magic, but work their magic they do, granting star status to the passions and dreams and frustrations of actual American people…The play is a treasure.” —Variety.