Amy Redford in Bhutan
(© Chip Porter)
Amy Redford in Bhutan
(© Chip Porter)
The names "Redford" and "Foote" come with a high pedigree. Amy Redford, daughter of Robert, and Daisy Foote, daughter of Horton, both know it. The two women have been friends since the mid-1990s, when Redford acted in a workshop of Foote's play, The Hand of God. Now, the actress is starring in Foote's Bhutan, which is currently in previews at the Cherry Lane Theater, with an official opening on October 29.

The play, which concerns the ups and downs of a New England family, has had a long developmental process; Redford, who plays "lushy aunt" Sara, has been involved from the beginning. Director Evan Yionoulis and the current cast -- which also includes Tasha Lawrence, Sarah Lord, and Jedadiah Schultz -- are the same as when the play had a two-week workshop engagement at the Cherry Lane last year. The play was further developed at New York Stage and Film, and now returns in revised form.

"We're really grateful to the Cherry Lane, because there are not a lot of people developing plays these days," says Foote. "It's wonderful to get the actors in front of you, because you get the benefit of hearing things, which allows you to see what's working and what's not."

While their family backgrounds have produced something of a kindred spirit between Foote and Redford, their friendship is built upon a mutual trust and admiration gained from working so closely together. "I learn so much about craft when I'm in a room with Daisy," says Redford. "She has a way of really attending to the world of the story. I love the soul she gives her characters, and their complexity and contradictions."

For both Redford and Foote, following in the footsteps of their famous fathers has inevitably invoked comparisons. Daisy Foote's plays are often set in one area in New Hampshire, calling to mind the way her father has set the bulk of his work in a small part of Texas. "I don't know why," she remarks, ruefully. "Maybe it's in the DNA." Foote describes her father as very encouraging of her playwriting career -- which is not surprising, seeing as how her entire family seems to be in the business; brother Walter is a screenwriter and film director, while sister Hallie and brother Horton Jr. are both actors. Hallie even starred in her sister's play When They Speak of Rita, which their father directed at Primary Stages in 2000.

But while Daisy Foote lists her father as one of her biggest influences, she also believes that there are substantial differences in their playwriting styles. "It's very frustrating sometimes," she states. "We have very different ways of working, and write about different things; New Englanders are very different from Southerners. But my hat is off to him because he's a stickler for what's truthful, and that's the biggest lesson I've learned from him."

As for Redford, becoming an actor was not a foregone conclusion. "I have a family that probably would have encouraged me in whatever I wanted to do," she states, "but there was a real aversion to anything that smelled of Hollywood in my upbringing and environment. That was something I was kept away from, thankfully, and I never developed an appetite for it. But I think people who end up going into the arena that their family is in have conversations when they're young and get to witness that world, that universe. I loved the universe of theater and storytelling. I have a lot of respect for the way my pop developed his career and the influence he's had. But the best gift he gave me was the freedom to develop my own sense of how I wanted to go about this business."

Redford studied at the University of Colorado, with additional training at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. For a while, though, she dropped her famous surname. "I wanted to navigate the world without a predestined opinion of me, good or bad," she states. "Especially in the world of acting, I wanted to go and play without having people be unduly full of praise or criticism. It was great because I got to work with people in a visceral way without all that extra baggage. But then, ultimately, I knew that it was not truthful. I have nothing but pride in my name and who my family is, and no matter what I do I have been part of that legacy and that's not something that I want to reject."