Virginia Kull and Nicole Lowrance don't exactly play rivals in Dividing the Estate, but it's pretty clear that Lowrance's character, Sissie, isn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of meeting Kull's character, Irene. In real life, meanwhile, the tension in their backgrounds, though not between them personally, is even more pronounced.
Both young women grew up in Austin, Texas, and attended rival public high schools there: Lowrance went to Westlake, and Kull went to Bowie. The schools' competitiveness (Austin High was the other part of a fierce triangle) didn't play out in debate contests or even in baseball: in Texas, Lowrance stated one day last week during a rehearsal break, "There aren't many people who are passionate about baseball or basketball. It's all about football."
During their high school days, Westlake had the advantage. "We won state my senior year," Lowrance gloated, "and Drew Brees" -- now the quarterback for the New Orleans Saints -- "was the star."
Kull, who studied drama at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, pointed out that Westlake was "a snobby high school. Bowie was more middle-class, with friendlier kids." She suggested that her character in Dividing the Estatewould, had she lived in the Austin, Texas, area rather than small-town fictional Harrison, Texas, have gone neither to Westlake or Bowie but to Hays High School. "Those are the kind of kids who would be in 4-H."
Lowrance, who trained at Juilliard, in New York, said that her Austin alma mater would probably have suited her character just fine, "although she might have preferred a private school."
Whatever the differences in their high schools, both Lowrance and Kull are proud of their home state and its complexity. "There's Willie Nelson Texas and George Bush Texas," Lowrance said, "and Austin is definitely Willie Nelson Texas. So is the town in Dividing the Estate. Houston, where Sissie lives, is George Bush Texas."
Do their home-state friends agree with their assessment of Harrison? "I think so," answered Kull, "A lot of Texans have already seen the play in previews. I had a friend come up to New York with her family to see it. Her father's family is from Wharton, like Horton Foote. He remarked on how funny it was to come all the way to Broadway to see a play based on his home town."
BRENDAN LEMON is the American theater critic for the Financial Timesand the editor of lemonwade.com