Fifty-two years ago, Tom Foral, a Doylestown resident and theater major at Northwestern University, performed at the Town & Country Players’ Theatre for the first time.
The year was 1960, and it was the Playhouse’s inaugural performance at the Barn (as it is still affectionately called), located at 4158 York Road, (Route 263) in Buckingham, where today it continues to host its plays.
“Seeing the Town & Country Players was the big time,” says Tom. “It was the first theatre group I knew about.
“I got lucky because my friend who was supposed to perform in their production, “Visit To a Small Planet,” preferred to go to the beach, and I replaced him in the show. This was an ensemble cast and I had a big role. I remained in the play for the entire run.” Fifty-two years later, this past May 25th through June 9th, Tom returned to Town & Country to play the leading role of the Stage Manager in Thornton Wilder’s great American play, “Our Town.” “I plan to do a play here every 52 years,” jokes Tom.
“In all seriousness, I felt nostalgic returning to this theatre, and it’s evolved into a very impressive venue over the years.”
Tom found out about this role from his husband, Joey Patton, a member of the Society of Stage Directors who told him, “you were born to play this role.”
“He was the driving force who encouraged me to take this role,” says Tom.
“It’s also my favorite play,” adds Tom. “Every time you see it, you notice something new, much like one does hearing a great symphony.”
Unlike 52 years ago when Tom was a novice, he brought over five decades of experience to the stage during his second performance here.
Tom made his Broadway debut in Woody Allen’s first play, “Don’t Drink the Water,” and spent nine months in the revue, “Weigh In, Way Out” at New York’s Upstairs at the Downstairs. He was in the national company of the musical, “Promises, Promises” (standing by for the leading man).
He appeared in two MGM films and also accumulated many regional and summer theater credits. In addition, he appeared in TV commercials and several award-winning soap operas such as “Guiding Light.”
Tom was in his 40s when he saw “Our Town” performed on Broadway the first time, and Henry Fonda played the role of the Stage Manager.
“I loved playing this character because he has a folksy, warm, personal disposition,” says Tom.
“Also, as Stage Manager, I began each act with a lengthy monologue. I played to the audience. In fact, it was exclusively the audience and me the whole time. I only had one scene with other characters in the show.”
According to Tom, this is his favorite play because it touches every major stage of life, like birth, marriage, commitment, death and life beyond the grave.
“It touches those topics humanly and with great insight and wit,” says Tom. “’Our Town’ is a play without a plot. It’s more of a glimpse of life with characters you are sure to identify with.
“You develop a great affection for every one of the characters because there are no saints or villains; just humans.”
The Stage Manager is an enormous role in this play, and Tom initially was concerned that it might be too challenging for him at his age, but the reviews and audience proved him wrong.
“The reviews were glowing, and enormously complimentary of me,” admits Tom. “On my exit, I walked through the audience and was often stopped by audience members who thanked me for a wonderful play. These reactions were so gratifying.”
Now that “Our Town” is over, Tom, also a nationally recognized painter, is currently focusing his time showing some of his paintings at the River Queen Artisans Gallery in Lambertville, where you can see a series of his circus paintings.
He does mostly figurative paintings as well as painted collages that he calls dreamscapes.
Tom continues to look for acting roles well suited for him.
“When you’re in the arts, you never retire,” says Tom.