On Saturday, March 17th, 2012, five Houston playwrights became the first inductees into the Texas Playwriting Hall of Fame. "Texas Nonprofit Theatres created the Texas Playwriting Hall of Fame to focus attention on the innovative work being done in this state and the people who make it happen," explained TNT President Chester Eitze. "In the first year, we chose to honor those who developed programs through TNT. In future years, TNT will accept nominations for playwrights, theatres, producers and publishers who have been instrumental in promoting new works. It will be a biennial process, with awards announced on even numbered years."
In March 2016, four new honorees were added: Stage West in Fort Worth, Mary Lou Cassidy of Midland (both producers), Horton Foote of Wharton and Johnny Simons of Fort Worth.
Johnny Simons' professional theatre career included work as a playwright, stage director, choreographer, and teacher, as well as performance work as an actor, mime, and dancer. In 1977, he co-founded the Hip Pocket Theatre with his wife Diane, and composing partner Douglas Balentine. The company remains a thriving ensemble theatre and internationally-recognized for its uniquely original work (many written by Simons), as well as playwrights and international theatre works rarely produced in the region.
Johnny Simons has been a playwright-in-residence and his plays were produced by the Edinburgh, Scotland Fringe Festival, London's Queen Elizabeth Hall, Alley Theatre, Kimbell Art Museum, Casa Mañana, Dallas Museum of Art, New Orlean's Le Petit Theatre, Duke University, and numerous other companies across the United States.
"My work is about plumbing - Plumbing the depths of thought and memory. That's about it."
Horton Foote (March 14, 1916 - March 4, 2009) was born in Wharton, Texas. Foote left the Cotton fields of his native Wharton as a teenager, dreaming of becoming an actor. But realizing his gifts as a storyteller, he embarked on a writing career that spanned more than half a century and earned him two Academy Awards ("To Kill A Mockingbird" and "Tender Mercies") and a Pulitzer Prize for "The Young Man from Atlanta."
The stories and lives of the people Foote loved in Texas became the bedrock for many of his plays, with the fictional Harrison, Texas, standing in for Wharton. "I picked a difficult subject, a little lost Texas town no one's ever heard of or cares about," Foote told The New York Times in 1995. "But I'm at the mercy of what I write. The subject matter has taken me over."
Foote's plays were produced on Broadway, Off-Broadway, Off-Off-Broadway and at many regional theatres.
In 1996, Foote was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame. In 2000, Foote was honored with the PEN/ Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award as a Master American Dramatist.
Stage West, founded in 1979, has a long history of supporting new plays and original works. Not only has it been the home to several world premieres on the main stage, Stage West also produces two well established playwriting festivals that encourage and support the creation of new works.
"Well before my time with Stage West, the theatre embraced new plays, producing several world premieres. Nearly a decade ago and thanks to two specific grants from the Arts Council, Stage West was able to create The Neighborhood Play Contest / Festival of the Kid and the Southwest Playwriting Competition/New Play Readings Festival. These annual events give playwrights and theatre artists of all ages a chance to create new work and/or to be a part of the creation process as actors, directors and designers. It is our hope that the Arts Council and other institutions supporting the arts will continue to recognize the importance of programs such as these. Strong support of the arts in general leads to healthier, thriving cities that are attractive to young professionals and their families. A firm investment in the arts (as well as in education) are vital to our community. All of us at Stage West are humbled by being selected as the 2016 inductee for the Texas Playwriting Hall of Fame. It is a true honor." - Dana Schultes, Executive Producer
Mary Lou Cassidy was bitten by the theatre bug in third grade and has never gotten over it! In 1989 she was the driving force behind the McLaren Memorial Comedy Play Writing Competition - in honor of local radio personality and dear friend Mike McLaren. While Mike bemoaned the lack of comedic work for community theatres to produce, Mary Lou has never met a playwright she wouldn't champion. For the past 25 years, Mary has cajoled, bribed, and romanced playwrights from all across the country to enter the competition and most of all - to keep writing. The McLaren Competition and Festival has spotlighted hundreds of scripts, fostered new directors and actors at MCT and provided insight into new works for audiences.
Mary Lou has seen the McLaren Competition grow from dozens of submissions in the first year and a handful of readers to hundreds of submissions in the late-90's and a handful of readers to 50 submissions... and a handful of readers. Other Chairmen have stepped into her shoes and shared their vision for the future, but Mary Lou remains a cornerstone of the program.
Inductees for the 2014 Texas Playwriting Hall of Fame were Dennis Gilmore, Jack Heifner and George Douglas Lee, recognized on March 15, 2014 at the TNT POPS! Conference in Bastrop Texas.
The March 2012 inaugural inductees of the Texas Playwriting Hall of Fame were Eddie Cope (posthumously), Diana Weeks, Carl Williams, Beverly Hutchison and Walter Boyd, all of the Houston area.