Having just read and discussed Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields, I was reminded that Horton Foote wrote the screenplay for To Kill a Mockingbird. Remembering that I enjoyed reading his plays, I reread Courtship: Valentine's Day: 1918: Three Plays from the Orphans' Home Cycle, short plays which are really appropriate reading for today, our day to celebrate romance.
Foote's three plays are set between 1915 and 1918 in the small town of Harrison, Texas. They begin with Elizabeth Vaughn complaining with her younger sister Laura about how much they are missing because their father will not let them go to the local dance. Sitting on the porch listening to the music, Elizabeth wishes she could be there with her new beau Horace Robedaux, who drops by to describe the event. Her father, identified formally through the trilogy as Mr. Vaughn, frequently visits the porch to urge the college age girls inside and to dissuade Horace from staying. By the end of the one act "Courtship," we learn much about the community and just how serious Elizabeth is about Horace.
The first surprise of the one-act, three-scene "Valentine's Day" is that it is set at Christmas 1917. We learn what happened the previous Valentine's Day, while the characters resolve ten-month-old disagreements. "1918" is set a few months later when the community is beset with a flu epidemic and the return of soldiers from the war in Europe. Elizabeth and Horace remain the focus in these plays through which the troubles of the times are eloquently expressed. The couple endures, and we are left feeling that their love is what will hold their world together in the challenging decades to come. The plays are good reading for today or any day.
Foote, Horton. Courtship: Valentine's Day: 1918: Three Plays from the Orphans' Home Cycle. Grove Press, (1987). ISBN 0394560744