NOW PLAYING - Morning's at Seven by Paul Osborn - 9/9/23 - 9/24/23
MEET CAST MEMBER: FRANCINE RAFTEN
Francine Raften exudes an aura far cooler than most. With a razor-sharp wit, an effervescent personality, and a capacity to delve into myriad topics on the fly, she is the embodiment of charisma. Listening to tales of her three-decade journey through radio, TV, and broadcasting, spoken in her laid back yet edgy style, might just leave you reevaluating your definition of ‘interesting.’ And, as I watched the rehearsals unfold, witnessing Francine’s unique blend of sass, warmth and genuineness, I see why she was chosen to play audience favorite, Esty, a woman who must rise above the social norms of the time to stand up on her own.
My initiation into Francine’s world began shortly after I joined the production crew of Morning’s at Seven. Set in post-depression America, the play required period costumes, and Francine unexpectedly brought a trunk filled with vintage shoes. She generously offered them not only to the cast, but also surprisingly, to me. I was initially reticent, but Francine has a way of making you feel immediately comfortable, and soon I was giddily rummaging through the shoes with the other women, squealing whenever a pair magically fit my feet.
Francine was a born communicator. Literally. From the cozy lobby of Hart Theatre, she recounts her unique entry into the world. “I was three months premature,” she began. “In 1957, that was a scary thing. I was in incubation for 6-7 weeks. As the story goes, the only way the nurses could get me to stop crying was to place a transistor radio by my head. And the die was cast.”
The transistor radio was her constant companion in childhood, turning radio waves into dreams. She’d stay up well past bedtime, snuggled under her blankets, listening to the American Top 40. “I always knew that I wanted nothing more than to be on the radio.”
And of course, she was. Because when you have a will as strong as Francine’s, you get what you want.
Driven by her passion, she plunged into broadcasting. “My first job was working for the number one station in all of Portland at the time,” she admits with a chuckle, having landed the job as part of her internship. “I was just seventeen.” This job launched an extensive radio career, where she worked as a DJ at various stations, and later, in talk radio and news stations. “I loved investigative journalism. And I was good at it.”
She reveals that she was the one who taught Bill Clinton how to pronounce ‘Oregon’ correctly. “He called in into my show and kept saying ‘Ore-gone.” She promptly corrected his pronunciation and - with her signature chuckle-snort – jokes that, “I credit that correction to him securing Oregon’s electoral votes.”
That’s pretty fricken cool.
“How did you get into theatre?” I ask, mesmerized by her stories.
She tells me that she was always involved in theatre, recalling an elementary school performance. She played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and Billie Burk’s granddaughter (Billie played the original Glenda the Good Witch) was in the audience. She advised her after the show to ‘keep pursuing this.’
“That’s amazing!” I say, lost for words.
“Yes it was,” Francine agrees, her eyes twinkling like Glenda’s gown as she relives the moment with me.
But like many of the female cast members of Morning’s at Seven, life and family meant a hiatus from the theatre. It was a friend at Magenta Theatre that brought her back into the world. Having read the script for The Cemetery Club, she called Francine to inform her, “You need to audition. You are Lucille.”
Francine decided to go for it. “I was terrified,” she admits. “But before I was done auditioning, I heard some of the other women murmur: Well, there’s Lucille.”
She indeed got the part.
“It blew me away,” she confesses.
Her mantra for life: “Live life to its fullest. Treasure each moment. Don’t put things off. And take that leap.” And her advice to budding actors springs from a conversation she had with the iconic Lily Tomlin, during Francine’s time doing stand-up comedy. “Commit. Even if you’re working with less than stellar material. If you commit 150%, the audience is with you.”
Francine has certainly reinvented herself many times, too. And of all her roles in life, she admits that her favorite is being a grandmother. Her granddaughter, Remi, will be on the stage one day very soon, she claims, beaming.
Much like Francine herself.
MEET CAST MEMBER: PATTI SPEIGHT
When Patti Speight approaches you, with her
commanding stature and dramatic flair—often in
the form of sparkles and animal prints – it might
seem intimidating. After all, Patti is well-regarded in
the local theatre scene, boasting an impressive 40
shows under her belt in the last decade, with 8 of
those performances at HART.
Spotting me amidst members of the HART
production team, Patti stops her conversation with
the artistic director to assess my Barbie-inspired,
pink ensemble. “I’m not sure what’s happening
here,” she deadpans with a wave of her hand, “but
I’m kind of into it.” Quickly switching back to her
previous conversation, I’m left wondering if she’s
jesting or genuinely impressed.
I reflect on a previous interaction with her last
spring. After her moving performance in "20th
Century Blues", I went to congratulate her, hoping
she’d notice our similar fluffy blonde hair and that
we were both wearing the same leopard-print
jacket. But alas, she was swarmed with well-wishers
and I couldn’t get near enough to model for her.
Now, as rehearsals for "Morning’s at Seven" unfold
and we’ve gotten to know each other better, Patti
humorously acknowledges our similarities. “We
could be sisters,” she says, looking at a photo of us
sitting beside one another at an after-party.
I smile. Given the choice, Patti is exactly the sort of
strong, spirited sibling I would want to have. “Do
you ever get nervous before a performance?” I ask,
noting her ever-present composure.
With a soft laugh she admits, “Always.” She explains
that feelings of nervousness and excitement are
very similar, and convinces herself she is just very
excited instead of nervous. “I think nerves are
important. They keep you sharp—on edge.”
When asked about her journey into acting, Patti
recalls moments from her childhood. “I had a sister,
but she was 12 years older than me, and left when I
was young. There weren’t many kids around my
age, so I spent a lot of time with my mother.”
She lowers her voice, lending it a gentle wistfulness
as she gets lost in her memory. “She taught me to
read before kindergarten. I remember she would be
down in the basement doing laundry… and there
was this metallic horse… and I’d sit on it and act out
stories from my books, sometimes with toys and
dolls.” She pauses and her words linger in the air a
moment before she resumes. “Later, I began
writing. And then I found theatre and everything
Picking a favorite role from her extensive portfolio
is challenging. After careful thought, she highlights
her roles as Becky in "Becky’s New Car", Dottie in
"Noises Off", and Lexi in the much-beloved "Dixie Swim
"Dixie’s Swim Club" holds a special place in Patti’s
heart. “It was a very sweet play, like Steel
Magnolias. There were five of us in the cast, and we
are all still great friends. That is one of the best
things about community theatre—building
She smiles, blinks her eyes and clears her throat,
and then sits up straight again, ready for her next
question. That’s another thing I notice about
Patti—she is always looking forward, always
“What drew you to audition for Cora?” I inquire.
Cora is considered the mildest of the four sisters in
"Morning’s at Seven", a jarring contrast to Patti’s real-
life personality.’ She reveals that she originally
auditioned for the role of ‘wild’ Arry.
“I think we all auditioned for Arry,” she explains.
However, when cast as Cora, Patti discovered a
depth and complexity in the character that wasn’t
noticeable upon first reading. Cora is a far cry from
being just ‘mild’—a sentiment Patti is determined
to communicate through her portrayal, especially
against the backdrop of the late 1930’s—a different,
yet not necessarily ‘fairer’ time.
To budding actors, Patti offers wisdom: Talent gets
you in the door. Character keeps you there. Every
performance is an audition for the next. She
emphasizes the importance of commitment, and
being a team player.
I ask Cora what her favorite line is across all her
plays. After a thoughtful pause she responds. “It
almost makes me cry every time I say it, but when
Cora says: ‘You can be alone in a lot of different
ways, Thor,’ that’s profound. You don’t have to be
alone to feel lonely.” Such universal sentiments, she
feels, lends "Morning’s at Seven" its timeless appeal.
As our discussion draws to an end, I reflect on the
lasting impact many at HART have had on me. Patti,
undoubtedly, will leave her own indelible mark.
She and her character, Cora Swanson, share a
common thread: Just as Cora casts hopeful eyes on
the house she yearns to make her home, Patti too,
regardless of daily trials, possesses an unyielding
optimism, ready to embrace the future.
MEET CAST MEMBER: MAXINE FOUNTAIN
“Would anyone like to see my shoes?” Maxine asks from
the bench on the stage. It is the third time she’s asked
the cast and crew of Mornings at Seven, and each time
she is greeted with an enthusiastic ‘Yes!’. She lifts the
hem of her long skirt and juts out her feet, revealing
vintage pointy-toed shoes, then giggles raucously—a
stark contrast from the overtly emotional character of
Ida, whom she plays.
When we sit for our interview an hour later, Maxine
looks at me with limpid blue eyes and tells me the story
of her shoes. “I have been looking everywhere for these,
and I finally found them. But when I went to the shoe
store, they were twice as much as the cash I had brought
and my card wasn’t working. After an hour, a lady from
the store offered to just buy them for me.” Her eyes mist
over, as if she isn’t worthy of such an impromptu gift.
“Well, that must have been a pleasant surprise,” I say,
offering her a warm smile. “Restore your faith in
humanity a little?”
“Oh, yes. The shoes were nearly two hundred dollars,
and she just gave me her address and asked me to send
her a check.” Her blue eyes drift off again, and I sense
she’s no longer thinking of her benefactor, the money, or
even her shoes. She breaks the silence with a laugh as
she hikes her skirt up further, showcasing a set of knee
pads for ‘crawling around on stage.’ Something she
As the self-professed ‘oldest’ cast member, Maxine’s
physical comedy is a wonder to behold. She doesn’t just
crawl across the stage - she pushes, pulls, jogs, and even
planks on the bench, ensuring her character is both
authentic and engaging. Just watching her exhausts me.
“What drew you into acting?” I ask as she folds her hands
into her lap.
Again, her eyes cloud over, as she sifts through her
memories to pinpoint the start of her theatre journey.
“My mother, I suppose. I wasn’t doing well in college - I
battled depression my first year and needed to come
home. Mother remembered how I liked performing, and
how I ‘got out of myself’ when on stage.”
Maxine shares that she began as a piano player and a
dancer, then went on to choir, eventually adding acting
to her repertoire. She beams as she recounts her solos.
“My mother suggested I apply to Goodman’s School of
Drama in Chicago. I was accepted! But wouldn’t you
know it, two weeks after I started, my father passed
away.” Her smile fades momentarily, and her eyes
darken before she finds her rainbow again. “It was Mom
who helped me out of my sadness—helped me get out of
myself. Theatre, stable meds, and eventually…Harry,”
affectionately referring to the stage manager she has
been seeing for the past seven years.
We discuss depression, mental health challenges, and
the enduring stigma of both. “Particularly then,” she
“Are you comfortable with me writing about this?” I ask
“Oh, yes,” she affirms. “I’m very open about it now. But it
took a lot of years to make things right.”
Glancing at the theatre door, separating us from Harry,
she catches my eye and shares that Harry had no theatre
experience before stage managing but wanted to
support her theatre comeback after a long break. “He
even auditioned for roles,” she reveals, smiling playfully.
“Though he admits he’s not an actor.”
Harry also took Maxine to her favorite destination:
Ireland. “He took me because he loved it so much. Now I
do, too.” She then impresses me with her Irish accent,
which she can slip into rather easily.
As our conversation winds down, Maxine recounts her
acting career, before semi-retiring to become a mother.
She appeared in many plays and productions during
college, where she also met her husband (no longer).
“We toured together with Camelot. He was the stage
manager and I was a dancer and provided comic relief.
They tossed me around so! I earned union affiliation on
that tour, though now I’m a retired Equity member. She
paused, again reflecting. “I also earned another
pregnancy at the end of that tour.”
Motherhood then became her leading role. “I might have
done more performing, but priorities reigned. I could
have done so much more.”
I nod, silently acknowledging the irony. In Mornings at
Seven, Maxine plays a distressed Ida, married to a man
who laments a wrong turn in life—a turn Ida counters
with the line, “Things just worked out differently.” She
then gestures to her belly.
It is only at this moment I realize that Ida might have also
missed a fork in the road, but nobody thought to ask her.
“I love my daughters,” she says, her voice brimming with
a mother’s pride. “When they were in school, they
performed or choreographed.”
“…things just worked out differently.”
I silently muse on the power of story. Years, decades, and
even centuries may pass—but the human experience
remains essentially unchanged.
“This is my first real show back,” Maxine confesses. “In
over twenty years! I’m nervous.”
“You don’t need to be,” I assure her. “You are wonderful
and everyone here adores you.”
She smiles, sensing my sincerity. Even if she can’t see her
own talent, I know she feels supported by the cast and
Finally, I ask what advice she has for aspiring actors and
what guidance she’d give her younger self.
She offers this counsel to both:
“Don’t stand in your own way. Be courageous. Don’t hold
yourself back. And never let fear prevent yourself from
Welcome to HART!
Hillsboro Artists’ Regional Theatre, commonly known as HART, is Hillsboro, Oregon's premiere community theatre. Located downtown in Hillsboro's city center, HART is known for its many great productions over its 27-year history. The theatre's productions have included drama, romance, comedy, mystery, musicals, and even Shakespeare. In each case they have utilized the best in local talent both on stage and behind the scenes with many of the talent returning numerous times to HART.
Everyone associated with HART, both past and present, is proud of the theatre and its service to the community, and look forward to the next 27 years.
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HART 2023-2024 Season
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Morning's at Seven by Paul Osborn - 9/9/23 - 9/24/23 - Directed by Harrison Butler
Seussical the Musical Jr. by Lynn Ahrens and Steven Flaherty - 10/20/23 - 11/5/23 - Directed by Don Cleland
Miss Bennett: Christmas at Pemberley by Lauren Gunderson and Margot Melcon - 12/2/23 - 12/17/23 - Directed by William Crawford
Brighton Beach Memoirs by Neil Simon - 2/17/24 - 3/3/24 - Directed by Harrison Butler
And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little by Paul Zindel - 3/23/24 - 3/31/24 - Directed by April Aasheim
Lightning Thief by Joe Tracz and Rob Rokicki - 6/1/24 - 6/16/24 - Directed by Chris Byrne