Look beyond what you see.
This is the advice that director Allison Jones offers to those planning to attend A Young Lady of Property.
“I want people to be able to look at it on a deeper level and understand there’s this intricacy to the simplicity of things,” said Allison Jones, senior theatre arts major.
Jones is directing the play for her senior theatre arts project. She chose directing instead of acting to see how it would stretch her skills. Jones has previously taken a directing class and done extracurricular activities as an assistant director, stage-manager and other various “behind the scenes” jobs. So though she enjoys acting, Jones said she decided to direct because she thought she could learn much from the process.
Jones received the play assignment at the end of last spring semester. Knowing the professors chose the play specifically for her gave her a boost of confidence, and she dove in, reading the script through multiple times to familiarize herself with it. Auditions were held at the beginning of the semester, and two months later rehearsals began.
Set in a small town in Texas in 1925, A Young Lady of Property is a coming-of-age story. The female lead, Wilma, owns the house left to her at her mother’s death. But due to her father’s gambling addiction, Wilma doesn’t live in this house; she lives with her aunt. This situation causes Wilma to struggle with figuring out, “What is home, exactly?” Wilma is searching for belonging, and as a 15-year-old girl, she’s not sure where to find it.
Although the play’s concept seems simple, Jones said the play has proved difficult to direct. The simplicity of the language and the lack of hidden meaning between the lines require the cast to make sure no part is bigger than it needs to be.
Horton Foote, the Southern playwright and author of A Young Lady of Property, based Harrison, the fictional town in the play, on his own hometown of Wharton, Texas. Foote did this with every play he wrote, writing about the people and places he knew best.
“I feel what appeals to us about Horton Foote is that he speaks our language, because the people talk just like regular people,” theatre faculty member Erin Naler said. Naler is currently writing her dissertation, which includes a chapter on the Texan playwright.
Jones loves letting her work leave an impact on the audience and hearing their whispers as they leave the show.
She wants the audience to realize that just as Wilma endures her tough life without becoming bitter, so can they.
“No play appeals universally, but I do think this play has something for everyone in that it deals with this idea of rootedness in community as a solution to our conflict,” Naler said.
Wilma learns facing fear and change and the messiness of life is possible. And through her story the audience will learn this also.
It’s much more than just a play about a girl and a house, Jones said. It’s a play about the beauty of forgiveness, the truth of family and the hope for a brighter future.
Naler said a theme in this play along with others written by Foote is the idea that, “we survive chaos by helping each other.”
A Young Lady of Property will be the last play in the theatre arts department’s season of plays focusing on creative women. Tickets are on sale now for $7 at bju.universitytickets.com or at Programs & Productions.
The play will be presented in Performance Hall from April 25 through April 30.