Painting Churches

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Painting Churches is a play written by Tina Howe, first produced Off-Broadway in 1983. It was a finalist for the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.[1] The play concerns the relationship between an artist daughter and her aging parents.


In a townhouse in the Beacon Hill area of Boston, an elderly couple, Fanny (in her 60s) and Gardner (in his 70s) Church, are packing. They are moving to a beach home on Cape Cod. Gardner is a poet and Fanny is from a "fine old family." Their daughter Margaret (Mags), an artist who lives in New York, has arrived to help them pack and paint their portrait. Over the course of several days, Mags sees her role in the parent-child relationship changing.

Production history[edit]

Painting Churches, produced by Second Stage Theatre, premiered Off-Broadway on February 8-27, 1983 (previewing from January 25, 1983) at the South Street Theatre, where it ran for 12 previews and 18 performances. It transferred to the Lamb's Theatre where it ran from November 22, 1983 through May 20, 1984, playing 9 previews and 206 performances.

The production was directed by Carole Rothman, set design by Heidi Landesman, costumes by Linda Fisher, lighting by Frances Aronson. The show featured Donald Moffat as Gardner Church (at South Street Theatre) and George Martin in the same role (at Lamb's Theatre), Frances Conroy as Margaret Church (at South Street Theatre) and then Elizabeth McGovern (in the same role) (at Lamb's Theatre), and Marian Seldes as Fanny Church (in both productions).

The play was filmed for the public television series "American Playhouse" and broadcast in 1979. The cast featured Sada Thompson, Donald Moffat, and Roxanne Hart.[2] It was remade for television in 1993 by Turner Entertainment as The Portrait, starring Gregory Peck, Lauren Bacall, and Cecilia Peck. [3]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Obie Award 1983
  • Performance - Donald Moffat (winner)
  • Design - Heidi Landesman (winner)
Outer Critics Circle Award 1984
  • Best Off-Broadway Play (winner)
  • Best Actress - Marian Seldes (winner)
  • John Glassner Award - Tina Howe (winner)
1984 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (finalist)


External links[edit]