A PICTURE OF AUTUMN, by N.C. Hunter, is a sensitive, intelligent and comic depiction of one family's attempt to grow old gracefully. AUTUMN tells the story of Charles and Margaret Denham, living in disarray in the decaying ancestral home with ancient Uncle Harry and senile Nanny. Their son Robert returns to England after several years abroad and finds that both the house and its occupants have faded from past glory. When an opportunity to sell the burdensome property arises, Robert leaps at the chance to help his parents downsize.
A PICTURE OF AUTUMN made its debut on February 11, 1951 in a one-night 'try-out' performance presented by the Repertory Players, at the Duke of York's Theatre in London. The Repertory Players offered new plays on Sunday nights; by the time they presented AUTUMN, they were "the oldest and most successful of the surviving Sunday play-producing societies" having staged over 190 plays, 62 of which were picked up and produced elsewhere—32 on the West End.
However, Hunter's comedy was not picked-up after its try-out—it may have been too subtle for the commercial producers. The Times critic called it "the greatest of fun"—saying that it had "so much to commend it that it may be worth remarking on certain obstacles to our complete enjoyment…" and then chided the author for "crediting all the members of his audience with his own sly humor."
Although no West End production of the play followed, Hunter's Waters of the Moon was produced two months later, having been serendipitously picked off the top of a rejected scripts pile in the office of a theatrical producer by the great British actress, Dame Edith Evans. Another nuanced portrayal of faded gentility struggling for survival, the play opened at the Theatre Royal in London with a cast that included Dame Sybil Thorndike and Dame Edith Evans. The production ran for 835 performances making its author a household name for a few years.
Hunter enjoyed great success with Waters of the Moon, A Day by the Sea and A Touch of the Sun—his plays dominated the West End throughout the fifties. But A PICTURE OF AUTUMN, the play that introduced him as "a writer who brought a new tone and unfamiliar nuances into the English theatre" gathered dust—until now.
N.C. Hunter (1908-1971) was one of the leading English dramatists of the 1950s and early 1960s. As theatrical revolution—spearheaded by John Osborne and his school of "angry young men"—exploded around him, Hunter kept his head down and provided moving portraits of a people questioning their own purpose in chaotic post-war England.
Norman Charles Hunter was born on September 18, 1908 in Derbyshire. Originally intending to follow in the footsteps of his father, a decorated Lieutenant Colonel, Hunter was educated at the Royal Military College. In 1930 he was commissioned in the Dragoon Guards but relinquished his position three years later, deciding to devote his life to literary pursuits. He found a day job on the staff of the BBC and began writing. In the years prior to the outbreak of World War II, Hunter produced six plays and four novels. His early plays showed the promise of a true writer with a strong sense of craftsmanship.
Hunter returned to playwriting in 1947 after having served with the Royal Artillery during the war. Over the next four years, Hunter continued to develop his craft, eventually acquiring a reputation as the "English Chekhov". Waters of the Moon brought Hunter to prominence. It was followed by A Day by the Sea, which opened in 1953 and ran for 386 performances starring Dame Sybil Thorndike, Irene Worth, Sir John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson. In New York, A Day by the Sea opened in 1955 with Jessica Tandy and Hume Cronyn headlining the cast; Hunter's only Broadway production.
In reviewing A Day by the Sea, Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called Hunter "a writer with a lot of charm, skill and taste" and went on to acknowledge that:
Hunter's restrained naturalism fell out of fashion as playwrights like Joe Orton introduced flamboyance and controversy into the British theatre. In Great Writers of the English Language, William Tydeman praises Hunter's "careful characterizations and finely orchestrated dialogue, his immaculate control of exposition and dénouement, his overall craftsmanship," and predicts that "Hunter's work may yet receive that fuller appraisal its quality still merits."
Video (Click image below to play video)
More photos »
Professor Keri Walsh
Professor of English, Fordham University
- Saturday, June 1, after the matinee
- Keri Walsh is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Fordham University in New York City. She specializes in Twentieth Century Literature, Theatre and Film. She is the editor of The Letters of Sylvia Beach (Columbia University Press, 2010) and the author of the forthcoming volume Mickey Rourke in the British Film Institute's new "Film Stars" series. She is currently at work on two projects: an edition of James Joyce's Dubliners and a book-length study called Acting Like a Hustler: Method Acting, Gender, and the Hollywood Film. At Fordham she teaches courses on Oscar Wilde, Modern Irish Drama, and Modernism and Cinema.
(Click image below to play video)
Dr. Barbara Z. Perman
Author of No Ordinary Move—Relocating Your Aging Parents
- Sunday, June 2, after the matinee
- As an educator, speaker, coach, family consultant, professional organizer and author, Barbara has helped seniors, their loved ones and entire communities rethink the moving process. Known as the "Diva of Downsizing" and "The Yoda of Moving", Barbara is an expert in the areas of the psychology of moving and managing senior moves. Dr. Perman is the Founder & President, Moving Mentor, Inc. Dr. Perman holds a Master's Degree from Oxford University and a Doctorate in Psychology from Edinburgh University in Scotland.
(Click image below to play video)
Author of When the Time Comes, Families with Aging Parents Share their Struggles and Solutions
- Saturday, June 8, after the matinee
- Paula Span writes the "New Old Age Blog" for The New York Times. As a journalist, Span spent half her career at The Washington Post, the other half was devoted to freelancing for a raft of publications, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, The New York Times and its magazine, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Magazine, and others. Span teaches at the Columbia Journalism School.
- Helen Cespedes
- Christian Coulson
- Barbara Eda-Young
- Katie Firth
- Jonathan Hogan
- George Morfogen
- Paul Niebanck
- Kraig Swartz
- Jill Tanner
- Set Design Charles Morgan
- Costumes Sam Fleming
- Lights William Armstrong
- Sound Jane Shaw
- Props Joshua Yocum
- Dialects & Dramaturgy Amy Stoller
- Casting Judy Bowman
- Production Manager Sherri Kotimsky
- Production Stage Manager Kathy Snyder
- Assistant Stage Manager Lauren McArthur
- Illustration Stefano Imbert
- Graphics Hey Jude Design, Inc.
- Advertising The Pekoe Group
- Press David Gersten & Associates